Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Stone Virgin - Barry Unsworth

When conservationist Simon Raikes goes to Venice to restore a statue of the Madonna, he is unprepared for the effect this stone virgin's strange, seductive beauty and mysterious past will have on his life.

The Stone Virgin is set in Venice in 3 different periods in time, the 1400s, the 1700s and in present day. The story opens in the 15th century with the artist facing his accusers on a murder charge but most of the novel is set present day where Simon Raikes is restoring a statue of a Madonna, a Virgin Mary, and while he works on it he is intrigued by who made the statue and what happened to the statue over the years.

I thought it interesting that there 3 stories in 3 different periods all directly related with the statue, or the men interest in the statue. All of them seem to focus on the sexual relationships the men had with the women in their life and the feelings, good and bad, that those evoked. I was expecting to find more interesting desciptions of Venice in those different periods and I didn't for which I'm sorry. I do understand that art appeals to the senses but lately it seems that most of the art related books I read are more than sensual, they are downright erotic, I think that's okay in a story well told but I'm starting to wonder if this is a pattern in today's art related literature...

I did like the mystery approach, who made the statue? What happened to him? Especially after that intriguing start. But Raikes affair and indeed his interactions with his colleagues take too much space and I kept wishing we got back to mystery.

As I mentioned in my review of Dunant's The Birth of Venus maybe it's just that these are not my type of books. I will definitely have to think twice before picking up another such as these.

Grade: 3.5/5

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