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- InactiveAnonymous On03/11/2020 at 4:36 am #72029
by Liz Heron
- Release date: October 25, 2018
- ISBN: 9781912618460 (191261846X)
- Author: Liz Heron
- Format: paperback, 320 pages
- Language: english
- Publisher: Unbound
About The Book
The Hourglass is inspired by Janacek’s opera The Makropulos Case, in which a singer lives for nearly 300 years — a questioning of what it would mean to be immortal and a valuing of mortality.
Paul Geddes, a Scot living in London, arrives in Venice to seek out a cache of papers that will give new lustre to a forgotten fin-de-siècle singer in whom he has an ardent interest. In rescuing Esme Maguire from obscurity he hopes also to shed light on the wider events of her life and times. His researches have put him in touch with Eva Forrest, a wealthy widow in possession of a tantalising archive that is yet to be explored.
Eva is mysterious, expressing willingness to help but selective in what she allows Paul to read. These fragments seem unconnected to Esme: they centre on the young Elena Merlo, a gifted singer who first visits Venice in 1684 and narrates an impossibly long life in which the city’s fluctuating fortunes are mapped through her own experiences of change.
A troubled love affair fraught with mistrust develops between the two. Eva resists Paul’s probings about her personal story and the history of the Venetian house where he is staying. When her past begins to come to light through an encounter in the Dolomites, the effects are devastating. Is Eva delusional, unsound of mind? Is she a hoaxer, or a middle-aged woman whose anxiety about ageing has overwhelmed her?
This is a novel about how the signs of ageing can contradict who we feel we are and how that looming prospect acts on love and desire, emotions with the power to rejuvenate. Throughout, music is a sustaining force.
A present set around the year 2000 has scenes from Venetian history threaded through it as the novel’s central character moves through time. She is painted by Pietro Longhi and comes to know the pastellist Rosalba Carriera. Her travels take her to Regency London and Edinburgh, and to the Paris studio of the famed photographer Nadar.
My research for this story began in Venice, where I lived for a number of years. I wanted the novel to have a strong sense of place and convey the city’s atmospheres. I also wanted to suggest how much women’s lives have changed in a matter not just of centuries but decades; and how one life can seem to encompass many.
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