To a Strange Somewhere Fled
Oxfordshire, England, 1682: Donatella journeys from Genoa to a small English village, joining her Italian mother and English sea captain father in a strange land. Donatella’s move is predicated by the death of composer Alessandro Stradella; their relationship was detailed in Denton’s previous novel, A House Near Luccoli. In this second book, Donatella mourns her loss, while beginning to accustom herself to this new world. Her struggles with the English language mirror her struggles to adapt to her new life while still grieving her old one. She meets Roger North, a complex and fascinating neighbor, as well as Henry Purcell and others, while she slowly finds her footing.
Music and passionate lyricism inform this book. Denton’s style of writing is poetic and musical itself, perhaps at times challenging to readers used to a more straightforward narrative; the book lingers in the mind like some elusive and beautiful tune heard through open windows on a summer’s day. At times I felt the story might have been easier to follow had I read the earlier volume, but eventually things became clear.
Denton has done a great deal of research, and the book includes many real characters—Henry Purcell, Roger North and his brother Sir Francis, and Celia Fiennes, the “fine lady upon a white horse” of nursery rhyme fame. Denton’s deep understanding and love for the music and musicians of this era are evident on every page and transport the reader. Lovers of poetry and music will enjoy this excursion to Baroque England, as I did.