A Trick of the Light and Death at La Fenice
This is a mystery, and a clever one at that, with distractions and clues hidden in details. But what I found outstanding about this book was that it’s perfect for bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses novels as a way to work out psychological issues. It aims to use literature to improve your life. You can do it under the guidance of a therapist or, I think, on your own.
A Trick of the Light dives deep into characters’ thoughts, emotions, actions; their relationships, lies, and truths. The obvious bibliotherapy vein is how it reveals alcoholism and different kinds of addictions. Yes, it talks about AA; but its strength is in how it shows addiction and obsessive thinking.
Penny explores jealousy, resentment, harboured rage, anxiety, low self-esteem — the gamut it feels like. You turn a page, and there’s another pondering moment, another ah-ha. And she does it so well, it doesn’t feel fake or heavy. It feels natural, like real life, but real life in a community of struggling people.
There are some minor mysteries that are obscure for far too long so that you can’t really benefit from pondering them. I suppose one of them was to expose our assumptions about age and personality. I just found it confusing.
Overall, an absorbing, challenging, and healing read. My write-in-5-minutes review.
I first read this book after 2000, but I don’t recall when. I own many of Donna Leon’s books but not this one. So I surmise it was one of those mass paperbacks I borrowed from the library, then returned it overdue because I could barely finish it before the 3 weeks was up. I probably didn’t. This month, I borrowed the ebook from the library (yay for ebooks and no more fines!) because I want to start reading the series over again. I have zero memory of it. I had trouble remembering Brunetti’s name and had to redo my visualization because I assumed I remembered it from reading so many of Leon’s books years ago. Bad assumption.
Excellent writing. Highly visual, although the map isn’t that great. It’s very detailed and shows many things — except the buildings and squares she mentions! Thank goodness for Google Maps and Google Streetview. It really helped with my visualizing since Venice doesn’t work like most cities. Actually, her descriptions and the way Brunetti moves around the city made me pine to return to Venice. I only visited it briefly.
The characters are drawn in depth. The conversations and thoughts feel natural. And the mystery is so well hidden that, although I picked up on whodunnit, I lost it in distractions that followed the clues I noticed. Ah well. The why of it, though, I didn’t get an inkling until it was revealed. Rather satisfying that.
The novel feels like a warm hug, a comfortable place with nice people, a place where you’d want to hang out and listen to their stories. A write-in-5-minutes review.
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