Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewer: Vera Omwocha

Hardcover: 228 pages.

I want to talk about Venice. But I cannot. So I picked someone else to tell you about it; Donata Mocenigo is her name. A daughter from a royal family in Venice, Donata lives with her family at their palazzo along the Grand Canal. She has never experienced the city, so, how is she going to tell you about it? She will, because she stumbles upon a map of the city and craves to walk down the narrow streets and canals of Venice.

(The guides; Martina, Alessandro and myself:-)

In this 16th century, only one son and daughter from a royal family are allowed to marry so as to preserve the family’s fortune. For the rest, the options range from staying at home to be maiden aunts (read nannies) or taking up careers in business or politics (strictly for the boys), or the convent. Donata is a possible candidate for the last option, but she wants more.

   (The Rialto Bridge along the Grand Canal)

Donata disguises up as a fisher boy and goes out of the house, her siblings covering for her. She discovers a new world at her feet, and Noe, the Jewish man she falls in love with. But he never discovers she is a girl, sad, huh?

In her adventures, she learns about the Jewish community, and the poverty that is safely locked out of her family’s palazzo.

Education is considered a worthless investment on the 16th century girl but Donata, with an inquisitive spirit, wishes to learn like her brothers.

Donata is intelligent and lovable. She represents the young woman who weaves her destiny, away from one laid out by society. In the end, she gets what she wants, except the Jewish man.

Perhaps sympathetic to the girl in this society, Donna gives Donata a loving family and does not make her denounce them to get what she wants.

(St Marks Square, behind me is the massive church – with mosaic made of gold)

Looking out to the city from T Fondaco dei Tedeschi palazzo, I saw Donata, rather, what Donata saw. There lay the magic of Venice; with its Adriatic waters, gondolas, ancient buildings and the Bridge Rialto. It felt like I was in the 16th century, with Donata.

Authentic and honest, this book will take you on a tour around the historical Venice, isn’t it beautiful to learn history from fiction?

A beautiful story. A magical city. And a girl who risks everything to get everything.

You want to try it out?