By the Grand Canal
This novel, set in Venice following World War I, echoes the grief and disillusionment of the war years, and the anxiety that this was not indeed the war to end all wars. Hugh Thorne, a British diplomat involved in crafting the post-war peace treaties, returns to his second home in Venice to escape a withered marriage. His friends, Giacomo and Valentina Venier and their two teenage children, observe Hugh’s life and play their own key role in this tale. They live in a crumbling palazzo, and Giacomo’s failing health is likened to Venice’s own decaying nature. Hugh indulges in an affair with a young singer, but is unable to decide if he should try to make the affair more permanent or break it off entirely. Into this situation comes Violet, the widow of a dear friend of Hugh’s and Giacomo’s, along with her teenage son, providing the possibility of Violet and Hugh moving forward once the period of grieving is over. However, it is the younger generation that holds the hope for something better, for a chance to escape the past. Rivière’s novel captures not only the feel of Venice, but the lingering effects of the war and of Venice’s history.