Daughter of Venice

What is it about Venice that is making it such a popular setting in children’s books these days? First there was Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza and Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, and now Donna Jo Napoli’s Daughter of Venice. Napoli’s Daughter of Venice is in many ways the perfect antidote to Stravaganza, for while the former is a fantasy novel set in an imaginary Venetian city ruled by women, Napoli’s novel is a disturbing portrait of the harsh reality of women’s lives in 16th-century Venice. Donata Mocenigo, the protagonist of Daughter of Venice, is the daughter of a wealthy noble, and as such she has everything she wants, except the right to walk alone among the streets of her native city. Jealous of her brothers’ freedom, she devises a plan that will allow her to escape the house for a few hours a day. The plan is simple but the consequences are far-reaching. Before she realises what she has done, Donata has changed the lives of those close to her forever. Rich in historical detail, Daughter of Venice is a wellresearched novel, which goes beyond the surface beauty of the city of Venice to reveal the laws, the customs, the beliefs and the injustices that make it such an intriguing place. Some of the novel’s informative and touching passages are those set in the Ghetto, an area of Venice that I have always thought was simply begging to have its story told. An intensely resonant volume, Daughter of Venice is a gem of a novel, and one that I certainly won’t be giving away!