Posted tagged ‘Historical Fiction’

Award-Winning Historical Fiction Explores Famous Composer’s Inspiration

April 1, 2012

As the sponsor of the Readers Views Literary Award for Best Historical Fiction, I am delighted that “Vivaldi’s Muse” by Sarah Bruce Kelly has won for 2011. I admit I know very little about Vivaldi or opera, but I love historical fiction, and Kelly has done a fabulous job of recreating the world of early eighteenth century opera in Venice, Vienna, and other significant musical cities of the time. Rather than rely on sweeping historical scenes and lots of detail, Kelly blends her research into the story in what feels like an effortless portrayal of the life of priest-turned-composer Vivaldi and the woman who was his pupil and Muse, yet never his lover, Annina (Anna) Giro.

The relationship between these two primary characters is detailed largely through Anna’s eyes as the reader watches her grow from a child of nine who dreams of becoming a great singer, to one who becomes pupil to the great maestro, and eventually becomes his dear friend until the time of his death.

Kelly does a magnificent job of keeping the reader interested in the characters while including just enough historical detail to make the reader feel he really is walking through the streets of Venice or watching prima donnas in grand opera houses rehearse their roles. Kelly also knows how to balance the characters against one another. I was impressed that she did not try to make the novel sexy or melodramatic in depicting Vivaldi and Anna’s relationship, leaving their relationship more meaningful and believable as evidenced by history, and the book appropriate for younger readers. Kelly does, however, do an excellent job of demonstrating the backbiting and envy that existed among the singers in a world where boys would be castrated so they could sing as sopranos in Rome because the pope forbid women to perform on stage, and where female singers often had to give their bodies to powerful men in the music world, from patrons to composers, so they could attain the roles they desired.

Amid this somewhat sordid but glittering world, where music reigned supreme, Kelly offers a balanced portrait of a man who was a priest but has a physical ailment that does not allow him the strength to stand and perform Mass so instead he composes operas, and of a young woman who becomes his friend but never his lover. While others, including a cardinal, insinuate that an improper relationship exists between Antonio Vivaldi and Anna, the relationship never slips into a romantic or licentious one, and Kelly, who has thoroughly done her research, knows how to tie together pieces of the true story, filling in holes with plausible fictional moments, including why the cardinal later changes his tune.

While Anna and Vivaldi are both well-drawn, I have to admit my favorite character was Chiara, a young singer who is jealous of Anna and immediately upon meeting her is determined to put her in her place. Chiara is an excellent villainess full of spiteful language and evil schemes to make Anna’s life miserable. She is perfectly bitchy without going overboard or being unbelievable. I also thought Anna’s mother was well-depicted and added to Anna’s character development by how she abandoned her family while Anna was still young, leaving Anna with some insecurities and a perpetual longing to heal her relationship with her mother, a situation that Vivaldi’s attention helps to soothe for Anna.

I have only read one other book about the life of an opera singer, Willa Cather’s wonderful “The Song of the Lark,” and I found Kelly’s novel could easily hold a place beside it. “Vivaldi’s Muse” is an example of what good historical fiction should be. It seeks to be realistic and true to the past and characters. Kelly’s broad brush strokes bring the people and era to life without ever boring the reader with too much detail. I hope Kelly continues to introduce us to the history of great music through her books. This reader, at least, wants to explore that great music after having read this novel.

For more information about “Vivaldi’s Muse” and Sarah Bruce Kelly, visit www.BelCantoPress.com

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Pirate Novel Wins First Place in Tyler R. Tichelaar Award for Historical Fiction

March 17, 2011

A fast-paced pirate novel has won first place for historical fiction in the Reader Views Literary Awards. “Quintspinner: A Pirate’s Quest” by first-time author Dianne Greenlay is a new action-packed novel of magic rings and high seas adventure.

 Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and Marquette, Michigan, USA. March 12, 2011—The votes are in, and the winner for First Place in the Historical Fiction category of the 2010 Reader Views Annual Literary Awards for a new novel is Dianne Greenlay’s “Quintspinner: A Pirate’s Quest” (ISBN 9781450233972, iUniverse, 2010).

The annual Reader Views Literary Awards were established to honor writers who self-published or had their books published by a small press, university press, or independent book publisher. Reader Views, a book review and publicity service for authors, is based in Austin, Texas.

“Reader Views reviews more than 2,000 books per year from budding authors who have worked hard to achieve their dream of being published,” Reader Views Managing Editor Irene Watson said. “Our Annual Literary Awards recognize the very best of these up-and-coming authors, all talented writers we know have very promising writing careers ahead of them.”

Dianne Greenlay’s novel “Quintspinner: A Pirate’s Quest” won the Tyler R. Tichelaar Award for Historical Fiction as part of the Reader Views Annual Literary Awards. The award is sponsored by Tyler R. Tichelaar, whose novel “Narrow Lives” won First Place in the Historical Fiction category in 2009. “I wanted to sponsor this award,” said Tichelaar “to encourage writing great historical fiction, and because there are a lack of awards and attention given to historical fiction, despite the intense research and challenges historical fiction authors encounter to create believable, entertaining, and informative novels that allow readers to travel back in time. I was thrilled that ‘Quintspinner’ won this year because it has all the elements of fast-paced adventure fiction with wonderfully developed, believable characters placed against a thrilling historical background to create a true swashbuckling historical journey.”

Reader Views is currently accepting submissions for the 2011 Literary Awards. Entry information, registration forms, and further information can be found online at http://www.readerviews.com/Awards.html.

About “Quintspinner: A Pirate’s Quest” and Author Dianne Greenlay

Besides winning First Place for Historical Fiction in the Reader Views Literary Awards, “Quintspinner” was shortlisted for the 2010 Sask Book Awards for Best First Book category, made the shortlist for the Eric Hoffer Award, and has been nominated for the Montaigne Medal. “Quintspinner” tells the story of sixteen-year old Tess Willoughby in 1717 London, who is given a prophetic spinner ring by a mysterious crone who soon after meets her demise. Tess quickly finds herself crossing the Atlantic, en route to the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies. On a journey where family secrets will be revealed, young love found, and shipwreck and a murderous fiancée threaten her well-being, Tess will discover inner strength and a destiny she never dreamed could be hers.

 

Dianne Greenlay, a retired EMT, holds a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy, and runs her own physiotherapy clinic. Besides writing fiction, she is an amateur playwright and enjoys directing and acting in community theatre. Greenlay lives in the middle of the land-locked Canadian prairies and, along with her husband, has had many ocean-going adventures. She is currently writing a sequel to “Quintspinner” and plans for the series to be a trilogy.

 

“Quintspinner: A Pirate’s Quest” (ISBN 9781450233972, iUniverse, 2010) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.DianneGreenlay.com. Publicity contact: www.ReaderViews.com. Review copies available upon request.

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