Friday, July 06, 2007

Chill Out and Read this Weekend!

Happy weekend, blog readers! If you're looking for some good weekend reading, try Daughter of Venice, by Donna Jo Napoli. Marlena, 12, calls it the novel's leading lady a "courageous, ambitious, intelligent, and adventurous character who shows us that girls can be just as strong as boys and achieve their dreams." Read on for Marlena's fascinating review!

Did you know that in Venice, Italy in1592, girls and women didn’t have most of the rights, freedoms, and opportunities that we have today? In Daughter of Venice, 14-year-old Donata Moncenigo yearns to do what only boys were allowed to do -- explore the streets and canals of Venice, receive an education, have a future career, and gain experience about foreign people and places. There is little hope for Donata’s future -- if she is lucky enough she’ll get married, and if she is not able to, she must enter a convent, a house for Christian nuns. Donata thinks this is extremely unfair, and decides to do something that will prove she can do anything just as well as a boy. Intrigued by the maps of canals and the stories her brothers tell her about their adventures, Donata disguises herself in boys’ clothes and sneaks out of her family’s palazzo to have adventures of her own.

She soon has a job, an enemy, and the adventures she’d been eager for. But all this comes with more problems. There is always the constant threat of her secret being discovered. At home, her twin Laura does her chores, as well as her own, and pretends to be Donata when she practices the violin so the family won’t suspect Donata is missing. Donata actually isn’t good at the violin and Laura is very talented at it. Their parents believe that Donata is improving musically and are also pleased that she performs her chores diligently. As a result, they decide that Donata will get married -- to the man Laura wants as a husband! Laura is miserable, and Donata feels incredibly guilty. She needs to find a way to change her parents’ decision before it’s too late. Besides creating more problems, Donata’s adventures give her the courage to ask her father to allow her to attend her brothers’ lessons with their tutor. She also proves her intelligence by joining in the conversations about government and business at dinner, which only boys and men were expected to do.

In Donata’s culture at that time, girls married very young, around the age of sixteen. Only the eldest daughter married, and if she was lucky, the second-oldest daughter might marry also. Any younger sisters had to be sent away to live in convents. In convents, nuns did work for charity and taught music lessons. But they could rarely leave the convents and had less freedom than when they were kids. Many of these girls did not want to enter convents. Donata’s situation is uncommon, since she had a twin sister. They are lucky enough to be the second oldest sisters in the family. Only one of them will marry, both of them will marry, or none of them will marry and instead live in a convent for the rest of their lives. Donata and Laura do not want to live in a convent, so their only hope is to get married.

In Daughter of Venice, the author describes the scenes and sounds of Venice beautifully. When I read the book, I could actually imagine I was standing amidst the busy crowds or watching small waves lap the sides of a gondola. Some parts of the story illustrate the Venetian government’s prejudice of Jewish people at the time, as well as other social classes. Donata comes from a wealthy noble family, the highest social class in Venice. Noblemen hold government offices and have the most privileges. Below that are citizens, who can vote but cannot be part of the government; and even poorer and less-respected are the plain people, who cannot vote. By exploring Venice, Donata met a lot of poorer people. She even made friends with a Jewish man, who offered her work.

I enjoyed reading Daughter of Venice because it was exciting, interesting, and well-written. Just when you think a problem will be solved, a new conflict arises! Donata is a courageous, ambitious, intelligent, and adventurous character who shows us that girls can be just as strong as boys and achieve their dreams.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the main character of this book. I will most definately try to read this book. It sounds devine.