Vivaldi’s Virgins

Written by Barbara Quick
Review by Mirella Patzer

Anna Maria dal Violin, abandoned as a baby, now lives as an orphan in the foundling home and cloisters of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. From an early age, she was taught to play the violin and became part of an elite orchestra of orphan girls. Antonio Vivaldi, the “Red Priest,” composed many of his pieces for them.

Anna Maria longs to learn who her parents are. Sister Laura instructs Anna Maria to share her innermost thoughts and aspirations in letters to the mother she has never known. She soon rises to become Vivaldi’s favorite pupil, and he composes challenging pieces for her to play. But Anna Maria longs to learn who she is and to see Venice. On more than one occasion, she manages to escape from the orphanage, but each time she is caught and punished. A small golden locket and chain are presented to her by a Jewish seamstress. Anna Maria knows it holds the secret of her parentage. Eventually, Anna Maria does learn the truth about herself and some of the other characters.

Behind the masks of Carnevale and the musical scores of Vivaldi, 18th-century Venice comes brilliantly to life in this passionate novel. The plot takes several twists and turns that will enthrall the reader. The details of history are well researched and the imagery sensational. The prose is lyrical and mesmerizing at times. Quick has included a glossary at the end to help the reader with Italian words and phrases. At the end, she describes what is historical fact and what she created from her imagination. This is a complex tale that will appeal to lovers of Italian history as well as to fans of Vivaldi and his music. Barbara Quick has written a truly enduring coming-of-age story.