The Venetian Secret: 1620
This is the debut novel of Annemette Fogh, who has carried out research on primary documents, as well as drawing on more recent academic studies. The plot is intriguing and the characterisation vivid: like so many of the city’s well-born girls, Marietta Morosini is forced to become a nun against her will, since, by tradition – and in order to pay the exorbitant dowries – only one daughter from each family can marry.
There is a wealth of detailed information about the lives of the nuns and the younger girls who board in the convent. Above all, the novel highlights the strong ties that bind the convent of San Zaccaria to the very heart of Venetian political affairs: the Doge himself is fêted there with choral music and food every Easter. Embellished with the finest art and architecture, the convent also conceals a dark secret, a wicked abuse of trust. Marietta’s great-aunt, Rosalba, was one of the few nuns ever to escape from the convent, and Marietta is determined to discover her secret from a mysterious painting and then follow in her steps.
The story lays bare the connivance and corruption that festered at the roots of Venice’s greatness and spins a ripping yarn about one young woman’s determination to outwit the system and to pursue her dreams. Two further books are planned, and the series would also appeal to younger readers, although more careful proofreading will be needed to eliminate a series of annoying typographical errors. This is one for a dark winter’s evening, or better still, a spring visit to Venice.