Michelle Lovric 

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The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters
New paperback cover from Bloomsbury 2015

Harristown Sisters

Harristown Sisters

 

Harristown Sisters

The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, is published by Bloomsbury in June 2014 in the UK and in August in the USA.

The Goodreads website has the first full review of The Harristown Sisters.

Here is an extract:

This book is a delight from page one. And nothing has ever made me want to visit Ireland so much as this book did. That's not a burn against Ireland. But there was such a vividness of description, that smell, language, dialect, culture, history, legend, lore leaped off the page at me. The story of seven sisters, their abundance of hair, and the trials and tribulations that come as a result of this could have been the stuff of fluffy lightweight melodrama.

But I do not exaggerate when I say that nothing I have read in contemporaneous fiction, comes as close to resembling a Bronte novel as this one does. I'm not going to say which Bronte as we all have our favourites and dislikes and I'm not planning on prejudicing you one way or the other. The fact that there were seven sisters alone who formed the core of the novel's characters presents challenges in differentiation, but each sister was such a personality and had such a unique voice.

I was constantly on the verge of weeping at how beautiful a grasp of language Michelle Lovric has. This book could have been written in the 19th century. Every sentence and paragraph feels carefully thought through but not at the expense of pushing the narrative forward. Turns of phrase stopped me in my tracks and had to be re-read. This isn't a case of style over substance. There is a complete harmony at work here. … If you're someone like me who laments that they don't write them like they used to, do yourself a favour and read this book.

Review by Anton, April 4th 2014

 

This is the riotous and true (!) tale of seven 19th-century sisters, who, with their help of their luscious long red locks, rose out of poverty in rural Ireland to become famous performers. Hooked from page one!

Company, June 2014

 

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric. Published by Bloomsbury

In the mid 19th century Europeans were fascinated with hair – specifically women’s hair, the longer the better, so when seven penniless sisters from Ireland with long, beautiful hair began a stage act that included singing and dancing they were an instant sensation. It may seem strange to modern-day folks, but during the Great Famine, people were looking for ways to take their minds off their troubles and what better way to do it then gaze upon the spectacle of these seven sisters with the flowing hair. Their popularity takes them from Ireland all the way to Venice, where they are courted, admired, and loved by all who see them.

Based on the true story of the Swiney sisters, Lovric takes a little known piece of history and breathes it into full and colorful life. Impossible to put down.

Review by Cayocosta72


“This is story to sweep you up and spin you about like a mad Irish jig. It swirls you away amid giddy torrents of language into a fantastical, sensual, yet villainously comic world …

Lovric relishes language. You almost taste the words that twist round your tongue and burst open on your lips. Here are slanging matches in which curses are pelted like fistfuls of slime. Here are eddies of adjectives. Here are descriptions to reinvigorate even the most mundane scenes.

Perhaps it is the rain forever scribbling on our roofs and our faces that teaches the Irish our unstinting verbosity,” says the auburn haired narrator Manticory. “ It’s what we have instead of food of luck. Think of it as a generosity of syllables, a wishful giving of words when we have nothing else to offer by way of hospitality: we lay great mouthfuls of language on you to round your bellies and comfort your thoughts like so many boileds and roasts.

… the dark Freudian undercurrents of the fairytale are updated to deal with contemporary themes, among them the objectification of women and the right to privacy. As the compulsive power of her narrative increasingly overcomes the plangent mazes of her description, the reader finally realises that they are in the irresistible hands of a storyteller who portrays not just her period but human nature too.”

Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times, June 7th 2014


“Lovric’s tale is lush with delightful Irish rhythms and memorable characters.”

Kirkus June 5th 2014


“The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a book permeated by a malignant sadness. Lewis Wolpert coined the phrase in his 1999 book Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression. If not technically applicable, the phrase definitely captures the underlying mood of this novel. Joy and anything approaching happiness are only very sparsely, and sometimes perversely, peppered throughout the novel. The melancholic expression of the red-haired girl on the front cover should have given me a clue. Yet, not far from her face are those words ‘true and splendid’ — and thus the peculiar beauty of this novel is expressed: in her delineation of destitution, fame and death, Michelle Lovric writes a truly splendid novel.”

The Cover Co June 12 2014


“Michelle Lovric’s darkly lively vocabulary and fantastical storytelling makes me feel I could tumble down a rabbit hole into another, not entirely nice, world. The Harristown Sisters is the tale of seven Irish siblings, heart-breakingly poor but all with a gift valued by the Pre-Raphaelite age they live in: extraordinarily long flowing hair. And so they are whisked away into dubious society and dangerous fame. Just love her humour and magical flamboyance.”

Kerry Fowler, Sainsbury’s Magazine, July 2014


“Sometimes, all you want from a book is fabulous escapism, a rich and detailed plot, unusual and memorable characters, larger than life but oddly real, a bit of a saga, a bit of a fantasy, a dash of historical realism, an edge of melodramatic soap opera, all tied up with excellent writing and a cracking pace.

Look no further, friends!

I’ve found this season’s pacy but gothic, horrifying but enthralling, joyful and mournful, grubby, edifying, modern but ‘olden days’ read. Michelle Lovric, The award-winning writer of The Book  of Human Skin, has crafted something really beautiful and unusual in True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.”

UBS Review of Books June 17th 2014


“… if you aren't nail-chewing within moments of the deliciously elongated climax starting to build, you have no nails to start with.”

Ani Johnson, The Bookbag, June 6, 2014


“I was a Michelle Lovric fan from the moment I started reading ‘The Book of Human Skin’. Amazing book that lives with me still – years after I first read it! So when I saw this book, I had to read it.

Was I disappointed? Not at all. The Swiney Godivas are quite simply wonderful …”

S.J. Bradford’s Book Blog June 4th 2014


Image Magazine in Ireland chose The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters as its book of the month, describing it as “an addictively subversive page-turner.”

“Michelle Lovric’s The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a book which almost appropriates the adjective ‘fecund’ to itself by way of description, so much does its language teem with rich, sappy, loamy, fruitfulness, even to a glorious abandon of excess …

This is a Gothic, operatic book by virtue of the intensity of feeling and opulence, sumptuousness of language, the reaching of heights of ecstasy, the plummeting the darkness of jealousy, violence, betrayal and murder. But the whole is delivered with such vivacity, such joyousness and juicy humour and playfulness of language that it becomes a wild, frolicsome read, despite the savage undercurrents.

And lest the term ‘Gothic’ should fret potential readers who might fear the pages may romp with werewolves vampires zombies and such other silly company – fear not, the ‘Gothic’ relates to the architecture of the language, full of delicious crenellations and furbelows. There ARE monsters within these pages, and they are all of a very human kind, with no need for the agency of magic.”

Lady Fancifull June 6 2014


“My book of the year to date. It took my breath away ….”

Fleur in her World, June 10 2014


The book’s rollicking, earthy voice evokes 19th-century Ireland with gusto, and Lovric brings the sisters and their tangled relationships to life as they come full circle to confront the poverty and losses from their past.”

Publishers Weekly, USA, June 10 2014


From the very beginning Lovric’s use of language is as colourful as her story; her descriptions of Venice and its palazzos are particularly lovely. Manticory’s voice is vibrant, intelligent, endearing and, at times, very funny … It’s a thoroughly entertaining tale in which love, lust, tragedy, comedy and revenge all play their part, and it ends very satisfyingly.

A Life in Books, June 22nd 2014


In Harper’s Bazaar July issue, Sam Baker named The Harristown Sisters as one of her top ten reads for the summer:

“An admission: I adored Michele Lovric’s macabre, Orange long-listed The Book of Human Skin. A second admission, I have a lot of red hair. These two things combined, I was always going to love The Harristown Sisters - singing, dancing septuplets who social-climb their way from poverty-stricken Dublin to Pre-Raphaelite Venice on the back of their auburn locks. But, as with the fairytale spirit Lovric so successfully conjures, nothing comes without a price.”


There’s a string of interesting reviews on Goodreads too.


Reviews continue to come in for The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, including this one from Oprah.com in the USA, where it is published this month.

“How do seven impoverished, fatherless sisters from rural Ireland with only middling artistic talents rise to notoriety? Darcy, the leader of the tribe, bullies her sisters into taking to the dance halls of their famine-stricken hometown, with hopes of striking it big. At the end of each show, the girls turn their backs to the audience and let down their hair, which cascades, unfettered, to their ankles. They soon become a hit act. "Our hair had its roots inside us, but it was outside as well," says Manticory, the lone redheaded sister and our narrator. "In that slippage between our inner and outer selves—there lurked our seven scintillating destinies and all our troubles besides." The novel is loosely based on a true-life group of American sisters who leveraged their hair to fame and fortune, and is cleverly set during a period when the Pre-Raphaelite style signified romance and freedom. Each of the seven sisters—insult-spitting Darcy, sweet Edna, tender Oona, wicked Berenice, plain Pertilly, spirited Ida, keen-eyed Manticory—will experience heartbreak and violence, even as their stars rise. Read this for the story, which is wildly compelling, and also for the prose, as magnetic as the sisters themselves.”

National Geographic listed The Harristown Sisters at top of the Ultimate Summer TripLit Reading List for novels that ‘take you there’:“Hair! The Swiney siblings have a lot of it in this fascinatingly odd tale, inspired by real-life sisters who gain fame and fortune for their ankle-length tresses in famine-plagued, Pre-Raphaelite-era Ireland.”

Amy Alipio, National Geographic, July 14th 2014


More reviews for the UK edition:

“Vividly descriptive, it’s an extraordinary book …”

Choice Magazine, July 1st 2014

“The fifth novel from Michelle Lovric – writer of The Remedy – is lined with a penetrating melancholic beauty.”

The Western Daily Press, June 28th 2014

Sunday Times reviewer Nick Rennison felt that the book was at times over-written but concluded that it “has a swagger and style that make it an enjoyable read.”

The Sunday Times June 29th 2014

Meanwhile, The Independent on Sunday named The Harristown Sisters as one of the best books of the year, in an alternative Man Booker List. Literary editor Katy Guest put the novel in the category of

The Anne Enright award for the Irish novel most guaranteed to make you cry

Niall Williams wins this year's award on the strength of his title alone. History of the Rain (Bloomsbury) is described as a "rain-sodden history of 14 acres of the worst farming land in Ireland" but inevitably, given its author, it is suffused with warmth and humour.

As is The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, by Michelle Lovric (Bloomsbury), about seven Irish sisters in the mid-1800s, all of whom have extravagant, Pre-Raphaelite hair …”

The book was a Summer Holiday Pick for Annabel, one of the editors of Shiny New Books: “Michelle Lovric’s evocative prose weaves an addictive tale of unhinged sisters, celebrity, greed and, yes, hair in The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters

‘Lovric puts her battling and embattled Swiney sisters into smaller and smaller corners, turning their tale into a full blown tragedy before it's all over. The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a dark tale, full of betrayal and unscrupulousness and pure creepiness. But I had a fantastic time reading it. Lovric's characters are so well-developed. Her plot overturns so many narrative conventions that I read with my iPad plugged into the wall for a few hours because I was running out of juice and I couldn't bear to leave off while it charged. I had to know what happened next. This is a brilliant, challenging novel.’

Annie Smith at The Summer Reading Project

Michelle Lovric’s delightful novel, narrated by Manticory, follows the Swiney Godivas from Harristown to Dublin to Venice. I loved the descriptions of the Swiney Godivas’ shows, in which they re-enact fairy-tales, myths and biblical tales, form tableaux of famous works of art like Botticelli’s Venus and plunder the works of Dickens, Thackeray and even Shakespeare for ‘hairy’ scenes and heroines for ‘tribute’ acts. The theatrical scenes are spiced by the sisters’ animosity towards each other, the surreptitious pinching and shoving, the whispers of ‘brown bitch heifer’ through the staged smiles”

Helen Parry at Shiny New Books

 

American reviews continue for the newly published American edition of The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.

 

‘Their tale is just as scandalous as a contemporary Hollywood tell-all, but with the delicious villains, mysteries and grisly deaths of a 19th-century penny dreadful. Plus, it’s beautifully told, with a keen sense of the era and its locals plaited deftly into the drama.’’

Meredith Grahl Counts, BUST magazine August/September 2014

 

Morgan Ribera at Bustle named it as one of August 2014's Best Books:

Michelle Lovric’s latest novel is a story all about hair — specifically long, cascading, floor-length hair. It stars the seven Harristown Sisters, all of whom have decadent heads of hair each in a different vivid shade. Impoverished, fatherless, and coming of age in the mid-1800s in a rural Ireland still suffering in the aftermath of the Great Famine, these seven sisters decide to use their flourishing follicles to change their luck, but with personalities as different as the color of their locks, their heads are bound to butt. 

Together they become a talented, traveling celebrity septet, singing, jigging, and flashing their gorgeous, Rapunzel-like gifts to the delight of international admirers. From the dancehalls of Ireland to the lavish stages of Venice, their act will send them on a rollercoaster of wealth and fame, but these sisters will have to overcome their own differences and jealousies too in order to defend themselves against exploitation and obsession.

Rich with historic detail and inspired by the true story, Lovric’s imaginative new novel is an enchanting read, filled with adventure alongside lessons about glory, loss, and deceit, about financial hardship, sibling rivalry, and the consequences of celebrity. “

Bustle.com

 

When Women Talks website named it as one of the seven best books published so far this year: “This is perfect for fans of historical fiction. Loosely based on a true story, it follows the lives of seven sisters with extraordinarily long hair, hair that leads them out of their poor existence in rural Ireland to the stage, riches and a palazzo in Venice. As well as being a great story, it also asks wider questions about female sexuality and experience, questions that are as relevant now as they were when this book was set.”

 

Mirella Patzer at The Historical Novel Review blogspot praised it:

‘It is a rags to riches to rags story that I found myself completely absorbed by. Each of the sisters was depicted with plenty of faults and qualities, which added to my interest in this fascinating tale. It is a roller coaster ride that takes the reader to joy, love, despair, and tragedy. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to book clubs as there is an avalanche of material that will lead to many a lively discussion. A lovely look into the odd and unusual lives of these fascinating women.’

Historical Novel Review blogspot September 3 2014

 

Combining magical realism, just a hint of fairy tale lore and the real emotions of a group of sisters coming of age, Michelle Lovric’s The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a delightful, if sometimes dark, tale of love, family and loyalties … … It’s a funny fairy tale, with hints of Rushdie’s magic peeking through a mainly realistic prose and nods to the legacy and legend of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude …and, if nothing else, exemplifies the perfect way to mix fairy tales and lore with the harsh realities of a nation’s, family’s and culture’s truths.

Corduroy Books August 19th 2014

 

Lovric does a marvelous job emulating the rhythm and slang of the Irish language, making The Harristown Sisters raucous reading. What begins as plausible fiction moves through operatic highs and lows and a fair bit of magical realism (Darcy’s physicality begins to mirror her black soul) before the novel winds down. Seven sisters and a career spanning decades is a lot of territory to cover but with Lovric’s imaginative touches, The Harristown Sisters is a lively Irish tale.’

The Gilmore Guide to Books, September 12th 2014

 

Back in the United Kingdom, reviews are still coming too:

I want to mention the excellent descriptive writing in this book. Every time Manticory thinks of her childhood in Harristown, County Kildare, she remembers the ‘turf stoves, thin geese and slow crows’ until Harristown becomes almost a character in itself. Later in the book, the descriptions of Venice are particularly beautiful…

The palazzi and churches let their fretted stones hang down into our faces like beautiful, insistent ghosts. Beckoning lanterns hung at arched water-gates. Inside their houses, equisitely dressed Venetians displayed themselves in glowing tableaux so that each palace seemed to host a puppet theatre performing just for us. The city was mystical and barbaric all at once, a floating fortress so delicate that the fairies would hesitate to place the weight of their wings on it.

I also loved the images of the girls hanging their hair from the windows of the bell tower of San Vidal like seven Rapunzels and each of them standing in the bow of a gondola with her hair trailing into the boat behind. I could tell this book was written by someone who knows and loves Venice.”

Helen at She Reads Novels August 13th 2014

 

The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters audio book has received an AudioFile Earphones Award. The review says

Caroline Lennon's lilting performance is splendid in this lively look at morality and the Victorians' well-documented obsession with hair. In 1865, the seven Swiney sisters of Harristown, Ireland, are endowed with luxurious, lustrous, overabundant tresses--from golden to raven black--and beautiful voices. To avoid starvation, they become The Swiney Godivas, a vaudeville act. They sing, dance, and perform mini hair-related dramas, and as the pièce de résistance, they let down their hair. Lennon captures the melodic Irish rhythms in both descriptions and dialogue. Each sister's voice is unique--sweet or whiny or fierce. The story is based on the real-life Sutherland sisters of upstate New York, who were also known for their lavish locks. Top-notch listening.





Carnevale
New paperback cover from Bloomsbury 2015

Carnivale


Bloomsbury electronic edition, 2013

Publishers:

UK -
Bloomsbury
Germany - Marion von Schroeder
Czech Republic - Euromedia Group
Turkey - Inkilap Kitabevi
Poland - Bertelsmann
Spain - Grup 62
Portugal - Saida de Emergencia

Carnivale
Portuguese edition of Carnevale


German edition of Carnevale


Turkish edition of Carnevale


  Carnevale

 

1782. The thirteen-year-old daughter of a Venetian merchant is lured from her bath by a cat and finds herself in the arms of Casanova – the legendary lover of women.

Twenty-five years later Cecilia is in Albania. She is now a portrait painter of great renown, her professional fame eclipsed only by her reputation as the last woman in Venice to have been loved by Casanova. Enter a young man from England, a troubled poet looking for adventure at any price – a man who begins his relationship with Cecilia with the announcement: 'I rather look on love as a hostile transaction.' He is George Gordon, Lord Byron, and with him Cecilia finds out about the darker side of passion.



'Lovric immerses us in the life and loves of beautiful Cecilia, the artistic daughter of an eighteenth-century Venetian merchant. The setting is faded yet decadent – think gondolas, palazzos, delicate food and amorous trysts. It's a lavish description of a sensual education that drips detail and drama.' Elle

'This novel mixes fiction with reality as surely as water mixes with the air and stone in that strange, floating city. Part love story, part lesson in aesthetics, part history lesson, this is a fascinating book.' Tatler

'A lush book, dripping with opulent descriptions and elegant imagery … Ambitiously imagined.' Australian Book Review

'Think gondolas and pigeons and A Room with a View … a dreamy, fantastical novel.' Sunday Business Post

'A dazzling baroque tale.' Sunday Tribune

'In terms of subject matter, this novel has the lot: Venice in the dying days of the republic, Casanova, Byron, sex and art – and talking cats … This is Lovric's first novel. It's lush but composed and she clearly knows Venice intimately.' Melbourne Age

'This is a novel that demands to be taken seriously … Cecilia is a charming character, and ultimately this is a touching, and in places even moving read.' Independent on Sunday

click here to read an extract


Buy Carnevale from amazon.co.uk

or www.amazon.com

Signed copies of books available from Elise Dillsworth at www.virago.co.uk



























 

 

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The Floating Book
New paperback cover from Bloomsbury 2015




Bloomsbury electronic edition, 2013

Publishers:

UK -
Bloomsbury
US - Judith Regan Books
Germany - Wunderlich
Portugal - Saida de Emergencia
Spain – Belaqua
Turkey – Bilesim Fuarcilik YS



Portuguese edition of The Floating Book


Spanish edition of The Floating Book







 

 

Venice, 1668. Sosia Simeon, a free-spirited sensualist, is the lover of many men in the fabled city, though married to one she despises. On the edge of the Grand Canal, Wendelin von Speyer sets up the first printing press in Venice and looks for the book that will make his fortune. When he tempts fate by publishing Catullus, the Latin poet whose desperate and unrequited love inspired the most tender and erotic poems of antiquity, a scandal is set in motion that will change all their lives for ever.
 

'Lovric reveals herself as a gifted and individual phrasemaker – always revealing, never anachronistic. Add to this writing talent the many other virtues Lovric brings to The Floating Book – a command of her subject that is so intimate that it is almost indecent; a similarly intimate facility with Catullus's poetry, which she translates herself; her thorough and (more important) judicious use of her prodigious research – and you can see how rewarding The Floating Book can be … it is refreshing and heartening to read a book by a writer who is genuinely interested in words.' Edward Docx, Washington Post

'Meticulous historical detail and a splendid, complex story make this portrait of Venice and its denizens memorable and moving.' Booklist

'Lush, exotic and dripping with sensuality … A fantastic novel of epic proportions.' The Good Book Guide

'Lovric spins an intrigue-laden tale of destructive lusts and mixed-up loves in the early days of the printing press. She has an eye for sensual detail, conveying the sights and smells of the city's markets and palazzos.' Publishers Weekly

'A richly textured tale of love and learning, lust and superstition that is at turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, exhilarating and terrifying … It is a book that demands the reader's attention.' Philadelphia Inquirer

'The Floating Book, whose prose more stylishly mimics its subject than any novel in recent memory, is the sort of fever dream from which you prefer not to awaken. The denizens and doges of Venice make their most human way through the humid city of our imaginations.' Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Son of a Witch

'As erudite as it is erotic … utterly inhabiting the preening, wanton, indulgent spirit of the Venetian Renaissance as few before her. And where has one ever found such erudition coupled with Lovric's gift for sensuous detail, for such erotic heat?' Wilton  Barnhardt, author of Gospel

'Opulent and ravishing – you find yourself thinking about the nature of obsession … about witchcraft … about Judaism, about the effects of the plague, prostitution, medicine … hypocrisy, betrayal, loyalty and disgrace. In short, fifteenth-century Venice slowly comes alive.' Washington Post

'A German printer of erotic poetry gets entangled with an adulterous Venetian hussy in this rip-roaring and intricately plotted historical novel, which evokes the atmosphere of the fifteenth-century city with a plethora of richly imagined local detail.
' The Rough Guide to Venice and the Veneto

click here to read an extract

Buy The Floating Book from amazon.co.uk

or from www.amazon.com

Signed copies of books available from Elise Dillsworth at www.virago.co.uk

 

 

The Remedy
New paperback cover from Bloomsbury 2015




Bloomsbury electronic edition, 2013

Publishers:

UK -
Bloomsbury
US - Judith Regan Books
Portugal - Saida de Emergencia
Greece - Minoas
Holland - de Boekerij
Russian - Family Circle



US edition of The Remedy


Portuguese edition of The Remedy


Russian edition of The Remedy

 

So at fifteen, spread belly-down upon the floor, a black sheet hunched over me and a candle at my foot and head, my lips pressed on stone, litanies in my ears, as the priest broke and entered my shocked fist to slide the ring on my finger, I promised to take no other husband than Christ. I almost meant it. In that heady moment the vow itself seemed no great sacrifice: I'd never known a man, but I had tasted chocolate ...'

One unforgettable night in 1785, in a theatre in Drury Lane, the heady alchemy of love and murder suddenly fuses the lives of Mimosina Dolcezza, a Venetian actress, and Valentine Greatrakes, prince of London's medical underworld. Dangerous secrets and elaborate lies soon send the lovers spinning in different directions, desperate for the truth not just about one another but also their own pasts. Their quest takes them from the dank environs of London's Bankside to the enigmatic city of Venice; her playhouses and brothels, apothecaries and quack doctors, spies and noblemen, her convents and her crypts.

 

'With vivid descriptions of the seedier parts of eighteenth-century London and the upper echelons of Venetian society, together with a series of intertwined plot lines that have the two main characters linked in a race through both cities, this novel makes compelling reading.'  Sunday Times

'A rollicking read that evokes the squalor and danger of eighteenth-century Europe as well as it does the glamour.' Daily Telegraph, Australia

'This is a fast-moving tale of love, murder, and lust … Already an expert on Venice, Lovric has researched eighteenth-century remedies, and a recipe for a fascinating concoction awaits the reader at the start of every chapter.' The Good Book Guide

'There's a whiff of Patrick Süskind's Perfume in the delicious and seductive recipes Lovric borrows to pepper her tale.' Sydney Morning Herald

'A bodice ripper for the Mensa set, The Remedy is a ravishing, meticulously authentic buffet of words and sensations … If romance, intrigue, and pantaloons are your thing, dear reader, salut!' Entertainment Weekly

'Labyrinthine, grandly imagined … titillating but fresh, graceful prose …' Publishers Weekly

'A  novel magisterially recorded … that makes a gift of splendid pictures, so that we seem to be there with the protagonists of the story, to breathe in the brocades and crystal of Venice, the fog of London's Bankside.' Federico di Nardi, www.thrillermagazine.it

'From first page to last, Lovric transfixes one with her superb language, imagery and twists of plot. At no time does the confidence or quality of narrative falter. Referring to her novel, The Floating Book, one critic describes her writing as “Prose as luminous as a Venetian dawn”. I shall be watching for her next book.'  Mslexia

'The book is a sublime example of the novelist
's art … It is an extraordinary display of virtuosity, featuring passion, hate, fear, revenge, brutality, and kindness. It is a pleasure and a delight to read … Michelle Lovric has written a book which is every bit as good as those by Sarah Waters. Grumpy Old Bookman weblog, April 18th 2006
 

click here to read an extract

Buy The Remedy from amazon.co.uk

or from www.amazon.com

Signed copies of books available from Elise Dillsworth at www.virago.co.uk
 



The Book of Human Skin





Russian edition (Family Circle)


The convent of Santa Catalina in Arequipa, Peru

 

 

 
 

 

Michelle Lovric's fourth novel, The Book of Human Skin, was published by Bloomsbury in April 2010. You can read the first chapter here. The Book of Human Skin is a story of unmitigated villainy, Holy Anorexia, quack medicine, murder, love and a very unusual form of bibliomania.

Midday, 13th May, 1784
An earthquake in Peru tears up the white streets of Arequipa. As the dust settles, a young girl with fanaticism already branded on her face arrives at the devastated convent of Santa Catalina. At the same moment, oceans away in Venice, the infant Minguillo Fasan tears his way out of his mother's womb. The great Palazzo Espagnol, built on Peruvian silver and New World drugs, has an heir.

Twelve years later, Venice is in Napoleon's sights and Minguillo, who has already contrived to lose one sibling, is listening to the birth-cries of his new sister Marcella, a delicate, soft-skinned threat to his inheritance. Meanwhile, at Santa Catalina, the scarred young girl has become Sor Loreta, whose craving for sainthood is taking a decidedly sinister turn.

Minguillo's livid jealousy will condemn his sister to a series of fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. But Marcella Fasan is not quite the soft target Minguillo imagines. Aided by a loyal servant, an irascible portrait painter, a young doctor obsessed with skin, a warhorse of a Scottish merchant and a cigar-smoking pornographer nun, Marcella pits her sense of humour, her clever pencil and her fierce heart against Minguillo's pitiless machinations. Her journey takes her from Napoleon's shamed Venice to the last picaresque days of colonial Peru – where the fanatical Sor Loreta has plans of her own for the young girl from Venice …

'The Book of Human Skin', Michelle Lovric

"Vile and contemptible is the book that everyone likes." M.Lovric.

I have been doing some power reading  -  and some of the struggling kind thanks to Cromwell & Wolf Hall - over the past few weeks,  only just getting to 'The Book of Human Skin' by Michelle Lovric last night.  I need to finish it for next Thursday's Book and Booze Club - and for my own sanity.

It begins:  "This is going to be a little uncomfortable".  

One hundred and thirty-seven pages in and it is screwing up my real life.  Darn that hideous, hazy state when life drags you from a disturbing read and places you in the company of others feeling disconnected and tongue tied.

This book might actually be rendering me speechless.

I must finish reading it so that I might, once again, function in life like a normal  (relatively), fully engaged (partially) human being.

Uncomfortable it certainly is.

I am also thinking not the best genre for a book club on the lead up to Christmas. Sigh. 

And am also really thinking I must get it read and resolved before I go to see my son in 'Miracle on 34th Street' next week........not convinced I want vile and contemptible swirling in my head alongside sugar, spice and all things nice.



'Rich, involving and brilliantly imagined.'
Fanny Blake, Woman and Home Magazine

'If it doesn't scoop all the prizes, we live in an unjust world. It's an absolute corker… It's years since I enjoyed a novel this much – or felt such strong envy of an author for having the breadth and richness of imagination to create such a world. AN Wilson, Reader's Digest

'This is, essentially, a love story told by a delightfully riotous collection of characters and voices…Fantastically gripping.' Eithne Farry, Marie Claire

'A witty, exciting, over-the-top page-turner which becomes increasingly addictive …Quite unlike anything else around – and all the better for that.' John Harding, Daily Mail

'Colourful, intoxicating and brutal. She 

'This book is fabulous - funny, horrific, subversive - in short a wholly addictive read.  I don't think I have enjoyed anything as much since Perfume.' Joanne Harris

'The Book of Human Skin is Michelle Lovric's fourth novel for adults, I am eager to read her backlist on the strength of it … the storytelling is superb … The Book of Human Skin feels epic in scope and has rich historical detail, while the narrative is cleverly handled with multiple viewpoints. Really a fantastic read, which does get under the skin.'
Emma Giacon, Book content manager, Amazon

'I cracked open The Book of Human Skin with the same frisson of apprehension and attraction that I remember on first meeting the Brothers Grimm with their cast of mesmerizingly cruel villains, resourceful  heroines, penniless lovers, loyal servants, and the downright mad. You know no good will come of it. The best you can hope for—given a stage set with poison, flaying, torture, and plague—is that luck will intervene somehow and allow good to prevail. But how? I could not stop my fingers from turning the pages of this deliciously horrid tale with its terrors holy and unholy, its pleasures delightful and diabolical, and danger crowding on every side.  But Lovric really saved the greatest surprise for the pages of notes that follow her tale: she is not making this up. Many of what seem like her most extreme and fantastical inventions are – appallingly— derived from the pages of history and our own deeply questionable obsessions, preoccupations, beliefs, and delusions. Disturbing? Certainly.' Pauline Holdstock, author of Beyond Measure

'… a fiendishly gripping plot full of comically sadistic twists and turns.'
Tina Jackson, Metro, April 2010

'Could I just do a little dance? Would you mind? I loved The Book of Human Skin. It's truly wonderful - vivid, immediate, clever, peopled with wonderful characters, the sweep of history and the power of landscape. When you finish it, you really do want to stand up, do a little jig, and say, hey, that was fantastic. Told through multiple narrators, it's about skin - how a person's life is written upon it, how other people get under it, how we use and abuse it. Minguillo collects skin. Doctor Santo takes care of skin. Sor Loreta abuses hers in holy anorexia and scourging. And Marcella's skin is luminous enough to show her core of radiant inner beauty, no matter what horrors are perpetrated upon her.

It
's a massive book in scope, strength and history and it took me a week to read it - not because it was dense or difficult, but because rushing would have felt like such a disservice. The research is absolutely awesome and there's such a powerful intelligence behind it, but these things don't interfere with the characters or narrative and there's never a feeling - as there is with some books - that you might not really be quite good enough to read it. Lovric bundles up her cleverness and her knowledge and uses it to delight, not confound. Fans will be glad to learn that the artist Cecilia Cornaro from previous Lovric books gets a great supporting role - and indeed there isn't a character that will leave you unmoved. It has some of the clearest fictional voices that I've read in a very long time. My favourite was Gianni's - rough, goodhearted, self-deprecating, and the kind of friend we all wish we had.
   
Highly, highly recommended.  Jill Murphy, The Bookbag website, April 2010

'Five years after The Remedy comes the author's new novel for adults. This time she steps out of her Venice/London comfort zones and sets the action half in Venice and half in Peru, in the late 18th Century. The story tells of a Venetian merchant's family, where the father's frequent trips to Arequipa leaves behind a son whose behaviour goes beyond evil and a daughter whose goodness is surprisingly strong enough to cope. Things getting much worse is what the novel is all about, so I'll not give much more away. But as the plot develops the Santa Catalina convent in Arequipa (see photo right, by Graham Morrison) is a considerable centre of the action - the cloistered life being a not unusual theme in the author's works. The story is told by the main characters, in their own voices, and even in different fonts. Ms L's ability to well, be these different characters borders on the spooky - this is writing to relish and, I'd hazard, a good big notch up from her previous work in power and range. You'll need a pretty unsqueamish taste for fleshy concerns and visceral detail too, as physical afflictions and infections are dealt with in unflinching detail. The life of a person being written on their skin is a major theme here - the clue's there in the title. Venetian detail takes a back seat to the narrative sweep this time, but the city is still an essential element, with no other place possible for the plot's purposes. Fans of Michelle Lovric's previous work will revel in the reappearance of Cecilia Cornaro, the heroine of Carnevale, as a very central character. This novel will worm its way into your brain, get under your skin, and if your heart isn't faint it's in for more than a fair amount of activity too.'
Jeff Cotton, fictionalcities.com

'I am a big fan of Michelle Lovric's work for both adults and children (her Undrowned Child was my book of 2009 by a country mile), so when the lovely Kate from Bloomsbury sent me a review copy of The Book of Human Skin, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into another densely woven, evocative story.

So, Lovric starts her tale with
''This is going to be a little uncomfortable'', and she isn't kidding.  From sadism and violence, to insanity, to body dysmorphia and worse, Lovric takes the reader from 18thC Venice (she is devoted to the city and there is no one who writes about Venice with a darker or more delicate touch) to a Peruvian convent.  The story is told by a bizarre cast of characters, creating a chattering cacophany of distinct voices clamouring to be heard.  Whilst this does not make for the most easily accessible of narratives, this is definitely one to stick with and the pages soon turn themselves. 

The story is fascinating, and Lovric's knowledge of Venice's trading empire shines through: the Fasan family, where her story centres, are traders in Peruvian silver and also Peruvian drugs.  When only son Minguillo's inheritance is compromised by his sadism, which borders on insanity, his little sister Marcella is set to benefit.  Minguillo begins a campaign not only to weaken his sister's mind, but destroy her personality.  It is not enough that he drives her to incontinence through terror, he cripples her and later compromises her sanity.  The things Minguillo does to Marcella are brutal and bear the special character of sibling torture and yet it is the little things Lovric throws in regarding his treatment of animals or distant, irrelevant figures that deepens the reader's knowledge of the chasm of awfulness that is Minguillo Fasan.

Add to this story a terrifying, passive-aggressive Holy anorexic (one of the most unpleasant characters I have encountered between the pages of a book), a doctor obsessed with human skin, a loyal servant, a Scottish merchant and a cigar-smoking nun and you have an especially Lovric sort of read.  The book is ambitious, and the story not without snags, but her knowledge of setting, period and the essential weakness and isolation of human nature makes it a triumph.  She is a pitiless writer, who revels in creating a cast of lovable rabbits, then setting a mink loose amongst them and watching it go about its feral business.  Remember, it's going to be a little uncomfortable ...' Lucy Inglis, Georgian London website, May 2010

'For summer reading enthusiasts, this book should come with a warning: only to be read at the beach with a flagon of sunscreen to protect your tender human tissue because you will be mesmerized by this ornately wrought story set in late-18th-century Venice and Peru. As Minguillo Fasan, the villain of Michelle Lovric's fourth novel might say: Dear Reader, be completely assured you will fall in love with this gorgeously diabolical story of love, murder and obsession …

Lovric, whose third novel. The Remedy, was long-listed for the Orange Prize, has created a stunning book that combines masterful writing, meticulous historical research and an enviable ability to create characters so real that reading is akin to gliding through Venice in a gondola and observing up-close these lives and machinations. It's a deeply atmospheric novel, with Napoleon meandering through the pages like a vein, as the story flows through ancient convents, sailing vessels, lunatic asylums, mountains and grand Venetian mansions.

The author is a piece of exotica herself, dividing her time between a converted wharf in London and a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. When Lovric isn't writing her own fiction, she compiles anthologies and belongs to the Disinfected Mail Study Circle, an organization that studies antique letters contaminated with horrible diseases such as smallpox and the plague, and the efforts of port officials to disinfect them. The very inspiration for this story came out of an offer from a Venetian ephemera dealer who offered to sell the author a smoked and vinegared letter from 1789.

The Book of Human Skin is a lavish historical narrative with dramatic landscape and intricate plot that unfolds through multiple narrative voices, each offering a different perspective. Some are determined to save Marcella, and others are bent on her destruction. There are brother and sister, Minguillo and Marcella, the delusional and sinister nun Sor Loreta, the warm-hearted manservant Gianni delle Boccole, and the good doctor, Santo Aldobrandini, the quiet and impoverished lover of Marcella. In the hands of a lesser writer, the numerous points of view could be downright confusing, but Lovric presents a complete and complex portrait of each character.

Each character keeps a journal, and the five principal characters each have his or her own font. Initially a bit distracting, this device provides a visual texture to each distinct voice in this bizarre cast of characters, allowing them to inhabit their own skin, if you will, throughout the story. There is great sense of intimacy and confidence with each character, as they share their secrets and desires. Humour also courses through the story, at times perverse and at times warm and tender, when seen through the eyes of gentle Gianni, who risks his life time and again to stand between Marcella and her demented brother.

Simply put, this is a book about skin, skin as a metaphor for humanity, how humanity is contained, manifests and is perceived. As Doctor Santo records in his journal: “Perhaps this is why I have always loved the skin: because it is both the story and the storyteller.” Marcella's skin radiates an unearthly purity while Lor Loreta ravages her skin in deluded acts of faux humility. Minguillo's skin is hideously scarred from acne and it is he who introduces the reader to anthropodermic bibliopegy, otherwise known as the practice of binding books in human skin, of which he is a collector. Some people will get under our skin, some will tear pieces off, some will preserve and protect our skin. Ultimately, the story shows how lives are painted upon our very skin, that we become a tapestry for all to see, perhaps to covet, perhaps to despair, or perhaps to worship.

The book begins and ends with Minguillo's warning to the reader, that they might be a bit uncomfortable. And let there be an added caveat: Lovric's dark tale of familial woe and colonial intrigue will imprint upon the Dear Reader's skin in the way only a classic can.' Christy Ann Conlin, Globe and Mail, June 2010

'THE BOOK OF HUMAN SKIN is gripping, absorbing, distressing, amusing, and impossible to put down. The reader is warned at the outset that ''This is going to be a little uncomfortable'', and sometimes it is. The world it evokes seems at times the work of a fevered imagination, but it is all based on sound research. (Do not skip the Historical Notes at the end; you may be amazed at what turns out, after all, to be simple fact.) Though it reminded me at times of TRISTRAM SHANDY, the Marquis de Sade, and THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO, it is thoroughly contemporary and full of surprises, not the least of which are the reality that lies behind those staples of Gothic fiction, the nunnery and the madhouse. In short, it is not quite like anything I've read before and how rare is that!' Yvonne Klein, reviewingtheevidence.com, June 2010

'Insidious, disturbing and very, very cleverly written ... Schizophrenic in style; the narrative is splayed out from various perspectives and in numerous, distinctive voices; each of which benefit from subtle cues through their unique textual font … As the story turns on the idea of a book inhabited within human skin; so the novel itself is strikingly clothed: a bright red cover with dark black tinged pages conjures up blood and death and fits perfectly the macabre quirkiness of its contents. Lovric is a master storyteller. With effortless artistry, she creates a pervasive tale with the smallest and simplest of strokes.' thetruthaboutbooks.com, April 2010

'Lovric's vivid new novel is a tale of fanaticism and bitter rivalry.'
Susan Osborne, Reviews editor of Waterstones Books Quarterly

'Heed Lovric's warning: ''This is going to be a little uncomfortable.'' The ''gentle reader'' is given ample opportunity to back out, but from the first page it was already too late for me. I was entranced. This may not be a book for everyone as it pushes the reader into the depths of pathologically immoral, corrupt and diseased minds, and yet at its heart it is a soulful love story … Lovric plays the role of ringmaster masterfully with a sideshow of characters who are often beautifully but sometimes regrettably human. Unique and poetically tragic, The Book of Human Skin had me reading with sinful pleasure in its darkness, and revelling in its fable-like beauty.' Bookseller and Publisher magazine, Australia, July 2010

'This is going to be a little uncomfortable ...

And so begins this mesmerizing novel by Michelle Lovric. The Book of Human Skin is not for those with a weak stomach, or for those who cover their eyes during horror films. This book is dark, grim, and cringe-worthy; and it's a great read. The Book of Human Skin features a wide cast of characters, from loving, devoted and kind to hateful, repulsive and insane …There is a love story and a mystery in this novel as well; basically it has everything. I highly recommend The Book of Human Skin. Just don't expect it to be comfortable.
'
mynovelreviews.blogspot.com, July, 2010

'Perhaps one of the creepiest, most bizarrely interesting books of this century so far, The Book of Human Skin is both romantic and horrifying in its humour.

The title suggests it all, really. And it does make you rethink the enjoyment you may feel in reading a book cover to cover.

But what Lovric does that is so unusual is combine something truly disturbing, truly difficult to swallow, with a tried and true love story …

It would be possible to go on and on about this book, as it has many layers, including social, cultural, religious and familial aspects throughout its 476 pages. It is breathtaking, uncomfortable, and exceptionally unique in the contemporary canon of literature.'
Victoria Oldham
www.suite101.com 

'The exhibition [Skin, at the Wellcome Collection until 26 September 2010] comprehensively illustrates Lovric's book. Skin is the main character in her comic, gothic horror story: a black'n'white, good'n'evil story. The distinctive skins of the five voices of the book are constantly on display, even depicted by different typefaces on the paper skins of the book. As his own erupts in crops of maggoty pimples, the garrulous Minguillo Fasan pursues an obsessive desire to torment his beautiful and pusillanimous sister, Marcella, almost, but not quite, to the point of death. In balancing the evil characters, the other crazed lunatic, Sor Loreta, is determined to toy with her own life and masochistically destroys her skin in her madly competitive desire to appear holier than thou. And then there is the all-too-necessary resectioning of skin that the sympathetic young surgeon Dr Santo Aldobrandini has to practise, not to mention the bruises, wounds, diseases and other evidence of grotesque abuse witnessed by the noble servant Gianni delle Boccole. Nevertheless, the appalling Minguillo Fasan apparently has some redeeming characteristics: his love of his Venetian palazzo and of his books. As the story peels apart, this passion for books is revealed to be yet another grotesque compulsion, but one that rather satisfyingly supplies his nemesis. The author artfully implies this is not a nice book, and as she pulls us in, horrified and intrigued, we, the readers, become complicit in Fasan's crimes. Indeed, it's a truly nasty book …The exhibition and Lovric's novel each make it plain that skin is the principal component of our identity, both hiding and betraying our inner selves.'
Caroline Ash, Science, August 2010

‘Set at the turn of the 19th century in Venice and Peru, The Book of Human Skin is a compellingly macabre and horrific read. I couldn’t put it down – just couldn’t stop turning the eloquently written pages! … Definitely my favourite read of 2011 so far and on my favourite authors list.’  A Nice Cuppa  Char blog, February 2011

'Short, sharp chapters, multi-voiced with the first-person villain exceptionally well portrayed. It is difficult to write successfully about one so dislikeable but Michelle succeeds admirably. We are at the turn of the 18th century in Venice and Peru. Highly recommended.' Sarah Broadhurst, Bookseller, May 2011

'Lovric has a passion for the history of Venice and of medicine, and her encyclopaedic knowledge of these two subjects enrich this, her fourth adult novel. Exquisite and inventive similes and metaphors finesse her disturbingly clever narrative: forsaking even ‘whores so ugly that they had to give change’, Fasan reports after his marriage to a fat heiress, "I worked my wife like a peasant works the plough".'  Gay Linch, Transnational Literature, May 2011

'Some historical books set out to give insight into an event, a real-life character or an era – think of Girl with a Pearl Earring or Arthur & George. In others, the author accepts that the past is a foreign country, so you might as well do things differently and let the imagination run riot – Süskind’s Perfume, say, or Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion.

The Book of Human Skin, with its cast of grotesques led by an evil brother who collects books bound in human hide and an anorexic self-harming nun with her one eye fixed firmly on sainthood, falls unapologetically into the second category, even if the Orange Prize-longlisted author includes 30-odd pages of historical notes to assure us that she has done her research.

The setting is Venice and Peru at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. When the psychopathic Minguillo Fasan discovers that he has been disinherited in favour of his sister, Marcella, his bullying torture turns into murderous violence. He cripples her in a shooting accident, has her declared mad and sells her into a South American convent, where she falls into the hands of the even crazier Sor Loreta. But their devilish plans are thwarted by Marcella’s devoted friends, led by her impoverished admirer, the doctor Santo, and Minguillo’s servant, Gianni. The story is told in bite-sized chunks by their separate voices (each one, rather archly, given its own typeface).

The plot, in which coincidence and a missing will play their parts, ultimately holds few surprises: true love triumphs and the bad bleed as a result of their wicked obsessions, but it is all entertainingly done, with some ingenious twists on the way.

You won’t be reading this for background on Napoleon’s campaigns in southern Europe or 18th-century smallpox epidemics, but you could do a lot worse on the beach this summer.' Paul Dunn, The Times, June 2011

'Michelle Lovric’s deliciously macabre tale is played out against the exotic backdrops of eighteenth century Venice and Peru.  Twisted Minguillo Fasan, collector of books bound in human leather, plots to overturn his father’s will, destroy his sister Marcella and inherit the decaying, gothic Palazzo Espagnol. There are a myriad of characters and plot strands at play including a psychotic delusional nun, a prioress with a penchant for Rossini, the trade in dangerously fraudulent cosmetics, a missing will, letters passed in cobbled boots, poisoned sword tips, Napoleon’s march against Europe, a portrait painter’s affair with Lord Byron and of course the path of true love. As with the best historical fiction invented characters stroll through real events and rub shoulders with legendry figures. Michelle Lovric’s research is meticulous and results in a rich and vibrant picture of a bygone age which is the perfect setting for her fantastical characters. The number of voices at work means it takes a little while to establish what is going on, but it is worth it. Wickedly funny and totally absorbing, this is a great read. If you enjoy Mervyn Peake or the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez you will love this.' Sally Hughes, We Love This Book blog, July 2011

'...what it’s really about is pain, in all its guises: physical and mental, direct and consequential, as well as its legacy, its inevitability, its endurance, and the sweet and twisted pleasure that it can sometimes afford. I’m aware that that doesn’t make it sound much fun, but it is; this book is witty and delectable, ripe with gleeful insistence at the ostentation of the characters - of which, Minguillo included, there are some humdingers - and the fantastical audacity of the plot line (which, as Lovric’s research summary insists, was not so fantastical at all), which sees Marcella’s life turned by degree into a living hell. 

It’s rich and nasty and draws you in like an illness, but never becomes too much as you are always being switched to a different viewpoint (there are four) and a new perspective on the connoisseurship of suffering. And when you are reminded quite as often as we are throughout the book, from the first page to the 466th, that ‘this is going to be a little uncomfortable’, you slip into a different mindset, I think, where you are both repelled and compelled by the revolting events on the page. I know I was. ‘Pain never finishes, does it?’ Minguillo remarks with glee and, with this book as the proof, the ‘yes’ comes easily and stays. There is some horrifically dark comedy, a profusion of touching and sad moments and a hope that everything will turn out right and Minguillo will get his comeuppance, which all combine to make a wonderfully vivid and dynamic whole.

Minguillo’s characterisation is magnificently riotous and seductive. He’s a superlative villain: complex, colourful and self-reverential, mad as a box of frogs, of course, and shot through with savage black humour and a wry wink of knowing. He’s totally aware of the extreme reprehensibility of his actions, but takes a sadistic pleasure in them that is quite intoxicating. Listening to him in first-person also makes you fascinatingly complicit, as he himself mentions at the book’s close (‘Did I not take you, as promised, on a long walk in the dark, and did you not choose me as your guide, by reading on? ...And so, Dear Reader, my crimes became yours.’) I had chills; it was like hanging out with a witty version of Ferdinand from The Duchess of Malfi and somehow enjoying it.

His is also the perverse obsession that gives the book its name, that is, collecting books bound in you-guessed-it, and also gives the text its most enduring motif: that of human skin. This Lovric uses beautifully. In brief: Minguillo fetishes skin as an inanimate part of his grim library, but is, as I’ve hopefully illustrated by now, psychopathiclly unable to empathize or love; Santo, the doctor, loves skin as diagnostic tool and falls for Marcella upon seeing her pale and luminous skin; Sor Loreta, the fanatical Peruvian nun whose story runs parallel to the narrations of Marcella, Minguillo and Gianni, Minguillo’s valet, scours, scalds and flagellates her skin into a deformed and hideous mess as proof of her religious fervour (I’m sure it’s not onomatopoeic coincidence that it’s ‘Sore’ Loreta; gross); and in the end it’s a character with a different skin colour, in a country obsessed with skin colour (tambo, criollos, mestizos, mulatas, moriscas, sambas and sambos, negros and negras, to name but a few of the labels applied to those without limpieza de sangre), that leads Marcella to eventual rescue and salvation.' Lyndsay Wheble, Tolstoy is my Cat blog, July 2011

'This is essentially a story about a young doctor who gets obsessed by skin! But it's also a historical book. It's set in Peru and then moveson to Venice. It is the most literary of the books and is very challenging. It's hard to sum up but it's very funny.' Amanda Ross, Daily Express Saturday magazine, July 2011

'Epic story of a Venetian merchant.' Heat magazine, July 2011

'Sounds gross right? Well it pretty much is - it is also marvellous and stuffed full with villainy. This story is told by 5 different people, aristocrats Marcella and Minguillo Fasan, medical assistant doctor Santo, Peruvian nun Lor Soreto and manservant Gianni. Michelle Lovric stitches her book together with these five strands and by doing so she sculptures a 3D story that can be approached by every angle. Only releasing information in teasing snippets, she leaves the reader willing her to reveal more … This is a great commuter book, the chapters are in bite-size chunks so you've got time to chomp on a few chapters before you need to hop off the train. I'm giving this book a 8/10, it is repulsively seductive and unnaturally charming.' Charlotte Chase’s blog, August 2011

‘This is Michelle Lovric’s fourth novel for adults and like the first three, it focuses on semi-fantastical historical settings, with larger-than-life characters. She favours the later eighteenth and early nineteenth century and individuals and societies on the cusp of enormous change. The Book of Human Skin has a split setting – Venice and Peru – and a multi-spectrum narrative, which moves between five different points of view, with many other voices woven into them. The lack of one omniscient narrator keeps the reader on their toes as all the characters are capable of deceiving themselves, each other and ultimately, the reader.

It is worth saying at the outset that the book of human skin is what it suggests. The novel’s central male villain, the grotesque sociopathic Minguillo Fasan, enjoys a particularly horrible form of bibliomania, even going so far as to have a copy of Pride and Prejudice bound in a slice of skin from a woman who died of puerperal fever. Michelle Lovric’s note at the end of the novel tells us that there is no suggestion that this object existed, but that it wasn’t unknown for books to be bound in human leather. Minguillo would certainly have wanted one; he has a collector’s eye for a rare object and the irony of a romantic novel, by A Lady, wrapped in part of one would have appealed to his misogyny and his grim sense of humour. In his time, death in childbed befell many women, an unseemly fact quite at odds with the traditional happy ending.

However if he holds women in contempt, he’s not very keen on men either, a trait he shares with the equally appalling Sor Loreta. Like Minguillo, Loreta loathes everybody but is less honest about it. It is not the business of a nun to hate anyone and Loreta prides herself on how much more pious, righteous and worthy she is than those around her, even, (especially) her sister nuns. When we first meet her, she is a horrible little girl, enjoying the spectacle of a man’s death by torture. She goes from strength to strength in a career full of spite, jealousy and hysterical fanaticism that is at times hard to read about. Another character suggests that she has Sapphic tendencies. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. Her fixation on the very masculine figures of God and Jesus has an erotic dimension – in many respects, she recalls personalities such as St Teresa of Avila – and she refers to Jesus as her Heavenly Bridegroom. Her devotion to Him drives her to extremes that are narcissistic, stomach-churning and far out of keeping with the Christian humility expected of a nun.

There is a downside to these two horrific creations. While the narrative fizzes with horrible energy while they are on the page, it loses something when they are not. They are so appalling that the other main characters tend to be somewhat flat alongside them, as if the narrative doesn’t have the room for them to have their flaws as well. Marcella, Minguillo’s sister, is not the victim he hoped she was, but she is essentially good, possibly more so than she should be, given what she has to go through. It’s very hard to imagine anyone who had to grow up with Minguillo being as virtuous as Marcella apparently is. Having said that, Michelle Lovric tends to write the sort of novels where heroes and heroines are somewhat beside the point. If her villains take centre stage, it might be that she intends them to, backed up with a cast of interesting lesser characters – a Puccini-loving prioress, a pornographer-nun and a grumpy artist who was a central character in an earlier novel.

Both Venice and Cuzco in Peru emerge as strong settings, full of character, life and seething with as much corruption as Lovric’s readers would expect. In both places, status, wealth and power mean everything, even as the two societies are in the process of huge change. Venice was central to the Enlightenment and was also a flashpoint of the Napoleonic Wars. It was part of the Austrian Empire for the period covered by the novel and up till 1866, when it became part of the Kingdom of Italy. In the meantime, Peru was in the process of shaking off European rule, as its Spanish settlers became Spanish Peruvians. In both cases, hanging onto established norms and privileges was part of the process and also an impediment to change. The changes they were going through are reflected in the characters – that of Minguillo, full of aristocratic ego and entitlement, of Santo, part of the emerging professional classes and of the women, especially Marcella and Loreta, seeking to define themselves as individuals in their own right. Lovric reflects all that, with varying levels of success, but ultimately, offers the reader a memorable, gripping, if not always likeable novel.’ Vulpes Libris, September 2011

'I picked up this book because it’s called The Book of Human Skin

I’ve got a huge soft spot for Lovecraftian horror. The whole idea of horror coming from being confronted with the truth really appeals to me. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than being confronted with a reality which is not only utterly alien, but completely hostile.

So, when I saw the title, I immediately thought, "Ooh, I wonder if that’s got something to do with the Necronomicon" I picked it up, and no. It didn’t. Then I read the blurb and got even more excited.

I’ve got a thing for gothic. I don’t mind the kind of gothic I had a thing for when I was fifteen, when I subsisted on angst, baggy jeans and eyeliner. I mean nuns, mysterious men, blood feuds, horrible secrets and all that jazz. A brother trying to ruin his sister, by crippling her, sending her to an asylum and finally making her a nun? That is so up my alley that I’m almost tempted to make a rude joke that isn’t even remotely funny.

And really, this book delivered. It was a bit rough getting into it at first, I have to admit. The story is told through a number of different narratives: Minguillo, his sister Marcella, her friend and servant Gianni, Dr Santo, and Sor Loreta, the batshit crazy nun. Some narratives are more engaging than others. Marcella was a bit dull as a character, but the crap she’s put through by her entertainingly horrible brother keep her narratives going. Minguillo was engrossing, although a bit too obnoxious at times. Sor Loreta was fantastic - I would quite happily read a whole book of her insanity. Gianni was fantastic too, one of the warmest characters I’ve read in a while. Dr Santo was only amusing when he went on about Napoleon.

For all the awfulness in this book (and it’s fantastic awfulness, just to be clear), there is also a lot of twee fluff. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like twee. I’m twee as fuck, myself. But some of the tweeness was a bit much for me. Marcella was a bit too nice to really grab my attention, and Santo was a bit too insipid for me to be really interested in him. I understand that with such amazing supporting characters, it’s hard for a couple in love to take centre stage AND be every bit as "holy shit? Really? Awesome!" as the rest, as the book would get a bit too cluttered with madness and awesomeness. It would probably also detract from the amazing cast of supporting characters.

It’s not until I was thinking of the book as a whole that I realized this, though. Sure, the protagonist and her love interested were a bit too dull and tragic and "woe is me" for my liking, but I didn’t notice while I was reading. The story is fantastically gothic, with all the trimmings and trappings that I was hoping for. Although Minguillo cheerfully progresses from disturbed child to a truly disturbing psychopathic entrepreneur, there are some really horrific moments. I first typed out "horrific scenes", but that isn’t entirely true. Harrowing things happen, but they’re all the more haunting for not being played out in front of the reader’s eyes.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It was decadent and funny and engaging, using some of my favourite gothic tropes to create an interesting and engaging narrative. I would have enjoyed a stronger female protagonist, but alas - I can’t think of many of those in "authentic" gothic novels either, and the presence of other fantastic female characters does make up for that. I’m definitely glad I picked it up, even if the titular book of human skin didn’t have anything to do with shoggoths.' 'Scrapegoat', Tumblr, October 2, 2011

'I say: I can’t even know where or how to begin to describe how much I loved this because it came in so many layers. So I’m going to try to split it up and we’ll see how it goes.

First of all this consists of five characters telling their own version of the same tale in the form of diary entries, if you will – all with a different font.
Minguillo Fasan: the evil brother, who was constantly addressing the audience, which I liked for the most part (some of it was a bit over the top, but then again, he was some kind of crazy). I liked reading his parts simply because it was chilling to see how far down the path of crazy he descended. Just when I thought that he would let things be, he went to stir up more and more trouble. His font was extremely small and quite the strain on my eyes, but we managed.

Marcella Fasan: Minguillo’s sister; the good and innocent one; constantly suffering for the sake of others. I really liked her, and it was disturbing to follow her thought process at times because she was such a martyr.
Gianni delle Boccole: a servant in the Fasan home, whose parts were written in vernacular (which I hate) and it took me a while to understand some of the words. He was the archetypal big, strong, and kind oaf sort of person, who did play an integral part in the plot, and I liked him, he was just not that exciting.
Doctor Santo Aldobrandini: his parts were somewhat repugnant at times when he went into great detail about skin diseases (his biggest interest) and his accounts of what he did as a doctor while on the battle field. He also went into medical detail about Napoleon’s various maladies, which was far more information than I ever wanted to know.
Sor Loreta: the crazy nun, who went on and on about how good she was and what sinners everyone else were; completely obsessed with martyrdom, and various canonized nuns, she made my skin crawl. The way that she spoke of seeing angels, hearing voices and the lengths she went to prove her love of god were downright disturbing.
I’m not sure that I can claim to love the way Lovric writes since it was five different styles, but my word is she talented. The way she weaved all these lives together is ridiculously impressive; especially since it took a while before they all came together in a poetically just end. I must also mention that I’m not sure why, but there’s something about adding real characters into a work of fiction that somehow enhances the reading experience for me. Like knowing that there are nuns that really do disfigure themselves like Sor Loreta; that the saints mentioned were real; and also the integration of Tupac Amary II in the plot.

At one point in the novel Minguillo comes across a copy of a book that is said to have been bound in the skin of Tupac Amaru II, and he later becomes obsessed with finding more of its kind.
Needless to say, I was hooked all the way through reading this, and even “had to” read while I was volunteering at the indie cinema, completely ignoring my customers.
It happens.

To sum up this almost ludicrously long review, I loved this. The only reason it gets 4.5 instead of the full 5 is because of the vernacular in Gianni’s part, the sometimes annoyingly over familiar way Minguillo addressed the audience (his tiny font) and some ridiculous things that happened near the end of the novel.' Kill Me If I Stop blog, October 4, 2011

'I have just finished reading The Book of Human Skin, by Michelle Lovric, and seriously, I WANT YOU ALL TO READ THIS BOOK. It's the story of a deranged Venetian nobleman who systematically tortures his little sister, and along the way collects books bound in human skin. No, stay with me! It's told from the point of view of the man, his sister, a household servant, their doctor, and a man Peruvian nun, and it's strangely and hilariously engaging. It is way funnier than a book with that premise has any right to be, and I can't even describe it. The book just gleams, somehow - it's absolutely gripping, but well written, funny, and delightfully clever. It's like a fairy tale and an adventure story had a baby, raised it totally on historical fiction, then dressed it in satin and silk and fed it wine and good Italian coffee. I just really, really want everyone to read this book! I cheered, and laughed, and I almost ripped one of the pages, even though it was a library book. Seriously, read it. You will not be sorry.' 'The Lady of Shalott', Snarkfest, October 2, 2011

'Featuring some of the most deeply unpleasantly vicious characters ever to grace a page; the story does not shy away from describing some truly horrifying acts. In a few places, I rolled my eyes, disgusted at how OTT it was...then looked the particulars up and found out that these things used to actually happen.

The more foul/sexist/derogatory or inhumane the act; the more likely that it was in fact historically accurate - somewhat like the Handmaid's tale by Margaret Atwood – where every indignity suffered by the protagonist had actually occurred in our history.  

I quite enjoyed reading the different narrative threads, though if I’m totally honest with you, it took some time to get into. The book opens with the voices of Sor Loreta and Minguillo dominant. Their twisted world vision provides interesting perspectives though I personally preferred it when those of kinder intent started to take over the narration. For one thing; without the constant glorification of self; the story began to flow a lot more smoothly. For another; you feel like you're seeing a much more honest view of the world.

I think that Sor Loreta was my favourite character. Never before have I read a character that so deeply winded me up and thrilled me simultaneously. Her self-belief, arrogance and fanaticism, coupled with her distaste for all around her comes across clearly from the get go. Within seconds of starting her narrative; you forget all about relating to her and just enjoy trying to depict the world described without her deep-rooted hatred tingeing everything. Throughout the book every time I saw the font that indicated her particular thought patterns (really nice little structural touch there) I had this dirty little thrill of delight. It is endlessly fascinating to me that she was able to get away with so much for so long. It makes sense though – given the financial arrangement behind her cloistering – is that a word? I suppose if you pay for your insane daughter to be housed somewhere; you expect her to be let to her own devices as much as possible. You certainly don’t expect her to be up on charges or anything. Sor Loreta is, without doubt, an evil vicious cow. And I loved her for it …

The author clearly loves Venice and has researched the time frame backwards and forwards. I wasn’t three chapters in before I was just DYING to go for a visit. If she ain’t on the tourist board…she should be!!

A fantastic, disgusting and though provoking read. One that still manages to thrill and delight; even while you’re hiding behind the sofa or feel too disgusted to read on!

I haven't read any of Michelle Lovric before, but I will definitely be seeking out more of her work in the future.’  Leeds Book Club, December 8, 2011

'Skipping first-person points of view is notoriously hard to do without confusing the reader but Michelle Lovric pulls it off brilliantly - I never one had to check back because I doubled whose words I was reading. The five voices are very distinct, and distinguished by fairly unobtrusive changing typefaces: their wildly varying stories weave together neatly for the ending.' Gillian Philip, An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, February 2012

'"This is going to be a little uncomfortable." Thus begins Michelle Lovric’s The Book of Human Skin … and she isn’t kidding. The narrative unfolds in five voices. The first voice being that of Minguillo the 18th century son of a wealthy merchant who divides his time between Venice and Peru … If you liked Perfume or any other well written historical fiction, you will be carried away by the characters in The Book of Human Skin. The literary style allows the characters to tell their stories each in their own unique way and creates almost a verbal dance where the stories weave and interconnect ending as they all come together at the conclusion. Like Shakespeare, Lovric “cleans it up nicely” at the end.’ King’s Sentinel, December 2012

The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric is a wonderful slice of fiction. Set in Venice, surrounding the inhabitants of the glorious Palazzo Espagnol, the book focuses on the Fasan family. There is the devilishly dark Minguillo and his cherubic sister Marcella who threatens Minguillo and his right to his own inheritance after the passing of his father. Minguillo then makes it his personal mission to destroy his sister whilst seriously underestimated he goodness and how much she is loved by those around her. With multiple narrators and , this may not be what you'd consider 'light' holiday reading. Lovric appears to have done a good deal of research on various prevalent topics and themes within the novel which makes for an interesting read. If you're a fan of any Gothic Literature, the works and writing of Anne Rice or shows like Hannibal, Game of Thrones or The Borgias on HBO etc I would recommend this book for you. This dazzlingly dark novel will certainly prove an interesting reads as it turns one of the most beautiful cities in Europe into a much more grim place. The story is shocking and amusing in all the right measures. Don't read this book if you have a queasy/weak stomach. Welcome to the Birdcage, July 25th, 2013

 

Essie Fox has published a review of The Book of Human Skin on her blog about writing.

I adore Michelle Lovric's writing style which is magical, flamboyant and entirely assured. Her YA novels are also a delight - if only we'd had them when I was a child! However The Book of Human Skin is decidedly not a children's read. It is fiercely dark and subversive, though not without great humour. 

The central story is that of a Marcella, a young girl who is locked away in a convent when her brother, Minguillo (mesmerising and charismatic, but horribly evil too) begins his narration with the words 'This is going to be a little uncomfortable'. Indeed it is! And Marcella's suffering at his hands is narrated from the extravagant viewpoint of no less than five individuals who (apart from creating a sense of awe that any writer could pull that off) knit together a complex scheme of events that lead to a thrilling conclusion.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because the quite sinister convent scenes are set in Santa Catalina, in the Peruvian city of Arequipa, a convent which I have also toured, and found it to be an inspiring place with a melancholy, haunting air. I always thought I would like to set a novel of my own in that place. But having read Michelle's Lovric's work I couldn't even begin to compete. Delightful, horrific and riotous. A truly entertaining read.

(And while we are on the subject, should you enjoy this novel, Michelle Lovric's The Remedy is another based upon the convent theme.)

Review by Essie Fox, DO YOU DO THE WRITE THING? blog, April 1st 2014.

Essie’s atmospheric and lush Victorian novels, The Somnabulist, Elijah’s Mermaid and The Goddess and the Thief are published by Orion. She blogs as The Virtual Victorian, and her clever website is here.









Publishers:
UK -
Orion
US -
Delacorte Press
Germany - Loewe Verlag
Italy - Salani
Portugal – Saida
Poland - Jaguar
Taiwan – Sharp Point Press
Poland - Jaguar



US edition of The Undrowned Child


Polish edition of The Undrowned Child


German edition of The Undrowned Child


Chinese edition of The Undrowned Child


Italian edition of The Undrowned Child
 

 
  A novel for children
Orion 2009
www.orionbooks.co.uk
www.randomhouse.com
www.undrownedchild.com



June 1st, 1899
Teo is browsing in an old-fashioned Venetian bookshop when a small, heavy book falls on her head. When the book greets her by name, Teo, an adventurous orphan, soon finds out that she is more than a tourist in the mysterious city. An ancient enemy is stirring and it seems that Teo has been chosen to save Venice from his violent hatred. This is a historical novel of headless butchers, vicious seagulls, sharks, mermaids and curry.





'A stunning debut novel … Part fairy tale, part historical fiction, this is writing that is alight and alive. Two worlds are held in balance, Venice on the cusp of change, as science exerts an even stronger stranglehold against a deeper, underwater world of myth and mermaids. A beautifully told allegory that captures the power of language, this has definite crossover appeal.' Jake Hope, Booksellers' Choice, Bookseller

'What an amazing sense of place the writer establishes - Venice is really the central character! The cast of characters too is fresh and quite extraordinary - how I loved those mermaids and their way of life. I didn't put it down as the story sweeps on with such speed and wonder that there's no place to stop.' Wendy Cooling, children's book consultant

'Atmospheric, beautifully written and about Venice - A superb volume of adventure encompassing all that makes a good solid read. Includes ghosts, retribution, death, mermaids, seahorses, bravery - absolutely brilliant. Read it in Venice if you can, if not, then read it and visit as soon as you can ...This is a must read book.' Sue Chambers, Waterstones, Harrods

'This sumptuous Venetian adventure is the first novel for children by Lovric, author of Carnevale. It's a Potter-esque 424 pages … but a great romp for more literary readers.' Fiona Noble, Children's Previews, Bookseller

'An amazing urban fantasy for children.'
LibraryThing website

'The adventure does more rollicking than I could shake a stick at … And then there are the fantastical characters. These are simply sublime - from the three types of ghost, to the Grey Lady who can transform into a cat, to the big bad villain himself, the traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo. They're all three-dimensional and they all fit perfectly into their surroundings, born from real Venetian inspiration. And then there are the mermaids, who are absolute triumphs and utterly hilarious. With speech influenced by sailors, they are as salty-tongued as they come - ''What a drivelswigger! Drags on like a sea-cow's saliva!'', run underground and subversive printing presses, and have a love for spicy food. Seaweed-cocoa with cayenne pepper, anyone? How about curried lagoon samphire? It is one for the committed reader, but this committed reader thought it was absolutely marvellous.' Jill Murphy at The Bookbag website

'I think that it'll turn out to be easily the best Venice-set novel of the year … This is as spooky as you'd expect from a supernatural tale for young adults/older children, but with charm and humour too. If I'd read this book as a child I think that my passion for Venice would've come that much quicker. Citing the names of Potter and Pullman is not inappropriate, but not as a marketing ploy so much as an appreciation of the rare skill for combining magic and humanity so that the reader is left with his collies wobbled and his heart warmed.' Fictional Cities website

'A captivating magical fantasy in a secret watery underworld, The Undrowned Child tells how eleven-year-old Teodora is swept into the storybook world of invisible children whose task is to save the dying city of Venice. Working alongside the mermaids, Teodora's task is immense. Together can they save the city before the water destroys it? With lyrical writing and an unputdownable plot this is something very special.' Julia Eccleshare, LoveReading4Kids website

'Perhaps only a three-hour epic could gather the complexity and colour of The Undrowned Child. But following Teodora through the twilight of headless butchers, ghosts, torture, murder and a thrilling chase would be amazing. If the film rights are not yet sold, I'd put in an offer …
The Undrowned Child has a marvellous story and is bound with a love of Venice. But what really distinguishes it from what could have been an author's vain attempt to write about Venice is the colourful language and detail. The mermaids have learnt English from pirates and like curry, the nuns see ghosts, the evil takes revenge on the bakers souring their pastries while poisoning tourists with mint ice-cream - no doubt a dig at the poor quality gelato served in St Mark's Square compared to the good stuff hidden in the back streets. There are also a few sly digs at the Biennale art festival and Venetians' open snobbishness to any foreigner, Italians included.

'Although aimed at a ''young adult'' audience - meaning children over ten - it seems certain the depth of the storyline will lead it on Harry Potter's successful quest into the adult market.' Daniel Barnes, www.inthenews.co.uk

BEST KIDS BOOK READ IN 2010: The Undrowned Child, by Michelle Lovric & Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O Dell

'The Undrowned Child is a real story-tellers story, full of fabulous, crazy characters; original ideas; sly, knowing humour and a love of language and books. An absolute delight.' Book Grotto Blogspot.

'Venice has been used as a stage for many books before, but this time the City of Water is the perfect background for a very original story which involves a parallel world, mermaids, ghosts, speaking statues and many more “out of this world” characters …Whilst unveiling the story, the writer manages to give the reader a particular insight into Venice. Even though it is set more than one hundred years ago, the dangers and problems threatening the city are so current and they are brought so close to the present that you feel you are there living the story with Teo and Renzo. And whilst reading you are walking though the campi, the calli, the canals of Venice and you feel like you are there. Or at least that’s how I felt.
    
If you are thinking of going to
Venice with your children and want them to know about the City of Water before they get there, this is the perfect book for them. It will entice them, they will want to go and find each single one of the places mentioned in the story. And with a little map at the beginning of the book pinpointing the most important sites of which the books talks about, this fantasy treasure hunt could not be easier.
    I really enjoyed reading this book, even if it was a children book. 
Michelle Lovric has managed to bring out of Venice not only the magic that always surrounds this city and that sense of mystery which always emerges from it, but also those day to day aspects of Venetian life,  which many times tourists and visitors ignore or forget about.
    The book is followed by a sequel which goes by the title of The Mourning Emporium: I will post about it pretty soon. Michelle Lovric has written many other books about Venice: her love for this city transpire in each word she writes.’
Monica Cesarato, in her blog,  January 2011

'This book is set in the brilliant, mysterious world of Venice in 1899. Ghosts walk the streets, winged lions move and handbills from the statue of Signor Rioba fill the streets. The prologue sent a shiver down my spine: a beginning to make you want to read on ... I like the way the author uses things from history that are real; I found the way the magical book shows Teo around Venice very interesting. This story, of Teo and Renzo – a Venetian boy - trying to save Venice from a traitor of the past, will scare you and make you smile. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes magical stories set in historical places.'  Guardian online, May 2011

'Il grimorio di Veneziaè un romanzo tra fantasy, horror e storia, rivolto ad un pubblico di ragazzi, ma interessante anche per gli adulti, se non altro per chi, come l'autrice, è sedotto dal fascino senza tempo e decadente di Venezia e dalla sua storia, qui un po' reinventata, ma, come spiega anche Michelle Lovric, basata su fatti veri, anche sgradevoli, come il periodo della schiavitù, che qui torna come lato oscuro con l'attacco di Bajamonte Tiepolo. Una storia che avvince senza stancare, alternativa riuscita a quelli che ormai sono stereotipi della letteratura per ragazzi, parlando di magia ma senza copiare i successi degli ultimi anni (niente scuole di stregoneria e il cattivo non è il mago più malvagio di tutti i tempi) ma costruendo intorno un intreccio che mescola suggestioni già sentite ma che riesce ad essere originale, appassionante e divertente, oltre che un commosso ed appassionato omaggio ad una città eterna e fragile, bella e inquietante come Venezia. In attesa che la Salani o altre case editrici propongano gli altri romanzi di Michelle Lovric, tra cui un altro per ragazzi, The mourning emporium, storia a se stante rispetto a Il grimorio di Venezia, e i titoli per adulti, è senz'altro piacevole scoprire una nuova penna, che propone un fantasy divertente e fuori dagli schemi, omaggiando un luogo magico di casa nostra e creando un'eroina che riprende personaggi come Pippi Calzelunghe, piccole donne intraprendenti non in attesa del  bel vampiro di turno pronte a prendere in mano l'avventura, per salvare Venezia da una minaccia che già tentò di ucciderla da bambina.' Sul Romanzo website, May 2011

'In the year 1899, the evil spirit of Venice's ancient enemy, Bajamonte Tiepolo, whose bones are buried deep in the Grand Canal, rises to seek revenge on the city that destroyed him centuries earlier. The mayor offers rational explanations for swelling tides of hot water, encroaching sharks, ghostly bells, and eerie lights, while insisting that children who die from plague be buried secretly at night. A magical book takes 11-year-old Teodora "between-the-Linings", making her visible only to children, ghosts, and animals. The book also introduces Teo to Renzo, a scholarly boy her age, and Lussa, mermaid queen and keeper of the "Seldom Seen Press", whose bawdy handbills warn Venetians of danger ("Have ye all been beaten with the stupid stick, like your mayor..."). Racing against time, tide, and "baddened magic", Teo and Renzo recruit forces to battle the enemy. Energetic pacing, delightful fantasy, historical drama, lively humor, and a palpable love for Venice pervade the first YA novel from Lovric (who has written several adult novels set in that city). Addressing themes of honor, friendship, redemption, and belonging, it's an engrossing page-turner.' Publishers Weekly, July 2011

'Teodora, a bookish girl with a complex destiny, joins with Renzo, a Venetian boy, to battle the city’s impending destruction.

In 1899, Teo and her adoptive, scientist parents travel from Naples to Venice for a conference focused on the city’s shockingly dire problems. Rapidly heating water has brought sharks to the lagoon; wells are bursting, and children are dying of a hushed-up plague. Teo has always felt powerfully drawn to Venice. When a mysterious tome, The Key to the Secret City, clocks her in a bookshop, she enters a parallel Venice, “between the linings.” There, the evil exile Bajamonte Tiepolo is rematerializing, assembling a blood-lusting army of mutilated soldiers to avenge the city that destroyed them. With the Key their helpfully morphing guidebook, Teo and Renzo assist a community of protective mermaids and “The Gray Lady,” a librarian-turned–spell-tattooed cat, racing against Tiepolo’s dark triumph. Thickly plotted and encrusted with historical characters and fantastic elements (invisibility, an almanac of spells, transmogrifying statuary), Venetian transplant Lovric’s first effort for children is one grisly, bristling ride. A map, historical notes and a section entitled “What is true, and what’s made up?” shed light on the complicated allegory, but fantasy-devouring kids might well prefer the fast-paced horror to the historicity.

A teeming, action-packed fantasy liberally laced with Venetian history, for strong readers of both sexes; a sequel awaits.' Kirkus Reviews, July 2011

'Fantasy and historical fiction blend meticulously in this richly imaginative novel. Set in 1899, it’s an intricately woven tale about rescuing Venice from impending demise. Teodora Gasperin, 11, miraculously survived a drowning accident that left her an orphan. She was adopted by two scientists who are attending a conference in Venice to find a way to save the city from sinking into the sea. While there, Teo is accidentally hit on the head by an extraordinary book, The Key to the Secret City for the Children of Venice, when it topples from a bookstore shelf, thus beginning her adventures. The book speaks to her, leading her on a quest to rescue the city from evil Bajamonte Tiepolo. After the accident, Teo is visible only to children, and she has extraordinary powers. As she tries to unlock the mystery to save the city, she deals with clever mermaids, some of whom add humor to the adventure. After a bumpy start, Renzo, a chauvinistic young Venetian, becomes her good friend and joins in her search. Lovric has included intriguing twists and turns on almost every page, with vampire eels and villains galore. Teo is a wonderful but unassuming heroine, and Venice itself is a thrilling character. The combination of imagination, thorough research, and evocative prose renders this an exceptional read that will not relinquish readers from its grasp. Happily, a sequel is already planned. This is Lovric’s first contribution to literature for the young, and it is a gem.' Renee Steinberg, School Library Journal, August 2011

'I have to start off mentioning how totally awesome Teo's paranormal power is in this book. Being able to see speech written in script above the speaker's head is the best power EVER. It made me wonder what font my voice would be? It was a totally cool idea. I am also a long time fan of Michelle Lovric. She writes beautiful books about Venice, yes, but she also tends to writes stories that involve powerful books. Books about books. And mermaids. Seriously, does it get any better than this? The mermaids in this story were so awesome. Their dialect was funny and smart and entirely unique. And that's another thing that keeps me coming back to Lovric's books. Her writing style is gorgeous. She can create atmosphere with ease and every single word on the page seems to serve a very specific purpose in her dialog and description.' A Curious Reader blog, August 2011

'Rich prose and colorful characters abound as Teo and Renzo race to find a spell book and turn it against the ghost, who will stop at nothing to destroy Venice. Lovric's characters are richly imagined, and though some are gruesome, like the ghost "in-the-Slaughterhouse," Butcher Biaso (who devours children), they aren't as terrifying as comical. The Undrowned Child reads like a classic -- a beautiful novel that immerses readers in the romance of Venice and the prophesy with which Teo and Renzo are bound. This was an incredible adventure, certainly one of the best I've read this year.' Where the Best Books Are blog, October 22, 2011

'Eleven year old Theodora is visiting Venice with her parents and snobby cousin Maria when a very old book falls on her head and gives her a concussion.  So begins a battle between the evil Bajamonte Tiepolo and his minions out to take over and destroy Venice in 1899 and the mermaids (who learned to speak from listening to sailors!) , their allies the cats, sea creatures and a variety of ghosts as well as those adults who have been given the task of protecting a book of spells.  Michelle Lovric dishes out in gruesome detail how Tiepolo and his gang- the headless butcher and others, have come to wreak havoc upon the Venetians and in particular, Teo and her friend Lorenzo.  Lussa, the queen of the mermaids, and her mermaid army is printing handbills in old English/sailor speak to warn the Venetians to no avail and it is up to Teo and Renzo with the help of the talking book  to risk their lives to keep Venice safe and to rescue Maria from the evil clutches of Bajamonte Tiepolo.  Teo can see word bubbles above people's heads and can read people's hearts by touching their chest.  If you loved Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord then you will devour The Undrowned Child.  A bit creepy and some parts will scare the living daylights out of younger readers but the history of Venice with all its quirks will enchant readers both children and adults.  This is the Percy Jackson of Italy!' Kim-Galleria August, B&N Community, October 14, 2011

'Lovric seamlessly blends historic Venice with a realm where mermaids, ghosts and winged lions roam freely. Readers will constantly find themselves learning new facts about the famous Italian city as Teo and Renzo uncover a dark mystery sealed deep within its archives. The encounters with Venice’s more otherworldly citizens are described with great attention to detail, and younger readers may find certain aspects of the story frightening. But no matter how bleak the situation becomes, a genuine sense of humor in the narration provides a glimmer of hope for its protagonists. For anyone interested in learning about Venice’s fascinating history or reading a whimsical, well-developed fantasy, The Undrowned Child will certainly satisfy.' Loree Varella, ALAN Online, September 2011

'The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric is a dark, magical book set in an alternate Venice. This historical fiction read is full of sinister themes, characters and occurences, which make it all the more gripping ... This book is my new personal favourite, quickly taking the number one spot on my list of top books. A really good read for any fan of historical fiction/fantasy. I think this book would appeal to fans of Ingo (by Helen Dunmore) and the Dragonkeeper series.' Isabelle K, Inside a Dog, October 13, 2011

I have one word come to mind when thinking of how to describe The Undrowned Child and that is delightful. Even when you give enough thought to what’s happening around the main characters, rather than skimming over the surface, and you discover how dark the deeper subjects can be I still found it delightful. Delightful, delightful, delightful. Unfortunately I don’t believe I’ll get this delightfullness out of my system for this review so prepared to be bombarded with the word … I think Lovric has done a superb job of including a multitude of messages in her story, messages of forgiveness, acceptance, the benefits of knowledge and history, listening to others, giving people a chance, and much more delivered in a (yes, you guessed it) delightful, colourful, and imaginative hybrid of alternative historical ficiton with fantasy. I feel this is definitely one both adults and a younger audience can enjoy, and I know I’m keeping my copy for any young ones in my family to enjoy as well. Bookish Ardour, June 26, 2012

'The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric is one for girls with a taste for water and curry with a kick. (Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to be someone who likes to eat their dinner in the bath- that wouldn’t be weird at all…)Â

It’s 1899, it’s Venice and Teo is an eleven year old with a party trick of reading upside down. (Now that’s skill!) Hit on the head with a book dedicated to studying mermaids- isn’t it annoying when you can’t read some books just because they don’t exist?- Teo is given The Key to the Secret City- a book- yes, another!- that leads her into an inbetween world where mermaids talk like sailors- there is no swearing to be had from these lucious ladies- and a time old story of the imfamous Bajamonte Tiepolo who failed to take over Venice due to getting hit on the head with a baking utensil. (Of all the luck.) With a little help from Renzo, a Venetian boy with very good taste in clothing- (and a straight one at that)- Teo must help to save Venice before it is drowned by whatever seems to be lurking below the water…

There is also a talking cat. What more could you possibly want in a book?

With a style of writing I can’t possibly liken to anything else I have read, Lovrik has begun a new obsession within me. The Teo Obsession- to be enjoyed with a nice cup of tea. (Or curry.)' Emmablablema Does Books blogspot, May 2013



A wonderfully surreal and at time subversive romp through a Victorian Venice awash with saucy-tongued mermaids, green poisonous icecream, malevolent seagulls and beetles, lurid pirates, shapeshifting cats and a hideous cannibalistic butcher, who carries his head under his arm in what could be a nod (pun intended) to Washington Irving. Teo is endearingly bookish, her friend Renzo is slight, scholarly and ultimately gallant, whilst the haughty, sometimes flirtatious mermaids are good fun. On a quest to stop the legendary historical traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo (try saying that when you’ve had a few ginger beers), Teo and Renzo hurry down the backstreets of a half-imaginary, half-real Venice, clutching a magical book that helps them at every turn. On the way they encounter mythical apothecaries stocking ‘Venetian Treacle’, plague-ridden children and sinister sculptures. All the while Bajamonte grows in strength, and threatens to have his bloody revenge on Venice once and for all…

All in all, I loved this book, and could hardly put it down! A rollicking, rambunctious read full of the salty tang of a Venice both real and wonderfully imagined. (And the mermaids are delightful.)

Overall rating: Whimsical, wonderful and at times highly inventive, Lovric has proven to me that she’s a writer to watch out for.

Eleanor Keane, The Breathing Ghosts, August 20th 2014








 

The Mourning Emporium

 
  A novel for children
Orion
www.orionbooks.co.uk
October 2010
The Mourning Emporium website

This sequel to Lovric’s atmospheric The Undrowned Child moves the action from the murky lagoon of Venice to the dark, narrow backstreets of Victorian London, where an evil plot to supplant the Royal succession threatens the country.

Teo, the Undrowned Child, and her partner Renzo are charged with saving the city, inhabited by drugged mermaids, pirates and talking bulldogs. Of course.

Wildly imaginative and action-packed, Lovric’s books stand out for their authentic historic detail and inventive use of language. A rambunctious romp for girls and boys who like fun with their fantasy. Laura Morris, Daily Mail, November 11th, 2010

This is the second book from the acclaimed debut novelist, who wrote The Undrowned Child last year. The historical features and elements of Venice are clearly introduced at the beginning of this story. Every page turned pieces together yet another pictorial aspect of this great city and creates a lasting impression. In fact the more you read, the more you want to visit and explore this great wonder of a city. The historical detail, threaded throughout the story, creates a unique and rich back drop for the introduction of a number of wonderful and crazy characters … Starting off on a roller-coaster ride of words, the author has the amazing ability to tell a story with a poetic voice. Sometimes she invents intriguing new words or accents, in order to fit the character’s profile, which I really liked and found interesting.  Elements of the story are purely fantastical, with just a hint of truth to blend the story together …
This is a book to be enjoyed by lovers of great fictional writing. It has a lot going on from ghosts to talking animals and mermaids to blood-sucking leeches. Never mind the torture, battles and frolics to be found on the high sea. The author has made good use of her personal knowledge of both London and Venice to lift this adventure - infusing it with charm and character that you don't always find. This should surely tempt you to get your hands on a copy of this book. Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books blogspot, November 19th, 2010

'This is a swashbuckling, serious story with a great good vs evil storyline! If you like the His Dark Materials trilogy then you will love this!' theschoolrun.com, August 11th, 2010

'This time, Teo and Renzo have not one, but two, cities to save. And this sequel to The Undrowned Child sees them travel from Venice to floating orphanage, to pirate ship, to London, where il Traditore is in league with a minor member of the British royal family … It's as rousing and vivid a book as its predecessor - on the surface is a mix of swashbuckling and humour, but underlying the action is some truly awesome research and a vocabulary-busting turn of phrase.

Once again, the supporting cast adds sparkle after sparkle. I was most glad to reacquaint myself with Venice's curry-loving, salty-tongued mermaids and I shared their disgust in their London counterparts - languid, fussy, uptight melusines they are, addled on Victorian London's various quackeries … Turtledove, a kindhearted, orphan-saving, talking bulldog, was my other favourite. He's as memorable as any Narnian creation.

There are ghosts, talking animals, pirates, orphans, heroes and villains in world ''between the linings'', but there's also a vivid and utterly accurate historical picture of London and Venice at the time. There's pace and tension, and there's a genuine and robust sense of humour underlying it all.' Jill Murphy, thebookbag.co.uk, August 2010

'I was laughing out loud on the tube this morning ... and I am gripped once again by Michelle Lovric's depiction of Venice & evil and am waiting impatiently for my lunch break to return to Venice, Teo, Renzo ... mermaids, cats and the rest ...' Sue Chambers, of the Harrods in-store bookshop, Waterstones

'The Mourning Emporium is Michelle Lovric's sequel to The Undrowned Child, which was my book of 2009. ... Teo and Renzo are back in The Mourning Emporium and facing not only the return of Tiepolo and his baddened magic, but a change of scene when they are kidnapped aboard barely sea-worthy pirate ship the Scilla and end up in London as Queen Victoria dies.  There they find more mermaids, Venetian zookymen, a talking, waistcoat-wearing bulldog called Turtledove and The Mourning Emporium of Tristesse and Ganorus. ... This book is a pleasure and I sincerely recommend it.' Lucy Inglis, Georgian London website

'Beautifully written and skilfully told, this story succeeds on most every level. It will make you laugh, and cry, and flinch. It will leave you entirely satisfied.' Essie Fox, Virtual Victorian blogspot

'Without reading the stories it's hard to convey just how whimsical and wonderful they are. Historically imbued with so many interesting true tidbits, filled with unique and charming characters, and told in the most enjoyably unusual language, these books are like nothing I've ever read before.  They are at once the quintessential children's adventure story while being told in such an intelligent way that I can easily see them becoming great classics.

        The Mourning Emporium has a great new cast.  While holding on to the beloved Venetian Mermaids, Ms Lovric has also added London's own, less rough and tumble, mermaids, as well as a fantastic gang of street children cared for by an english bulldog by the name of Turtledove, not to mention the wonderful cat of the Scilla Sofonisba and her entourage of orphaned Venetian boys.   But not to worry!  She hasn't neglected to add a new host of evil doers as well.  Ms Uish, the Pretender to the British throne, sheep obsessed convicts from Australia and some vampire squids make for some deliciously awful villains for our children to come up against.

        Told in such a way to be engrossing for both children and adults alike these books are so packed full of intriguingly true history and wonderful vocabulary I'm guessing virtually every kind of reader also comes away having learned something too.  Though you pick it up in such an enjoyable way it hardly seems like you could have learned something, isn't learning supposed to be endlessly boring??' Rhiannon Ryder, Diary of a Bookworm website

'Queen Victoria is dying and, in an Australian penal colony, a Pretender, Harold Hoskins, is planning to seize the British throne with the help of an army of ghost-convicts, vampiric sea-creatures and spying seabirds. In league with him is Bajomonte Tiepolo, the ghost of a mediaeval Venetian traitor who has already brought Venice to its knees by inducing an ice-storm and heavy flooding. Sailing from Venice to save London from the same fate are young Teo and her friend, Renzo, who have certain advantages over most adults, including the ability to talk to animals and see ghosts. This summary provides only a flavour of the immense detail and intricate mythologies contained in this book, the second of a trilogy set in a fantastical alternative to the years around 1900. ... These incidents are supported by ripely eccentric characterisations and humorous dialogue ... Lovric also demonstrates great descriptive verve – the British coast 'opens like a grim grey smile in the water' – and clearly has a precise understanding of the geographies of both Venice and London, potentially encouraging her readers to turn to their maps. The book will appeal to all readers who appreciate adventure, fantasy and humour, although the centrality of Teo, albeit disguised as a boy for much of the time, may particularly attract female readers. Its sharp characterisation and direct dialogue make it accessible for those of 11 upwards.' Ruth Taylor, Books for Keeps website

'Plenty of humour here (‘cast asparagus’) and some new loveable characters, mostly animal. Sleeping with squirrels is a new trend for the cold. Seems they can keep you warm. White rats. Ew. Fat weasels. The whole zoo.  Great story, and Teo is another of those likeable heroines in fiction.' Ann Giles, Bookwitch blog, December 10th

'The Mourning Emporium is the sequel to the even more fantastic The Undrowned Child ... The Undrowned Child proved to be one of those sublime reads that stayed with me for weeks after. The author lives in Venice and her knowledge of and passion for the city and its history and mythology shines through on every single page - I'm not sure I have ever read another book where the elements of historical fact and the fantasy creations of the author were so finely blended together as they are in this one. In my opinion Ms Lovric possesses great skill in two key areas -  the ability to produce a rich prose with great attention to detail without slowing down the pace of the story; and the other is her character development. In the first of these two books she delivers two fantastic main characters - the quirky orphan Teodora and the initially pompous and arrogant Renzo - as well as a vast supporting cast of colourful characters.
      Fortunately, having only read this a few months ago, I did not have long to wait for more. Although the book works very well as a stand alone novel ...  it turned out to be everything I had hoped for in a sequel ... Again, Michelle Lovric demonstrates great adeptness at creating characters that the reader will both love and hate. Miss Uish is one of the latter - she is truly cruel and a detestable woman who should join the likes of Miss Trunchbull and Cruella de Vil as a character that readers spend the whole book looking forward to reading about whatever nasty demise the author has in store for them. The story eventually takes our heroes to London, again giving the opportunity to flex her creative muscles and produce a host of very different, and very Victorian English, supporting characters from the ones we saw in the first book. The most enjoyable and noteworthy example of this is Turtledove, a talking bulldog with something of the Fagin about him, although far more kindly in the way he treats the waifs and strays in his care.' The Bookzone (for boys), December 4th

'Time for some magic. Michelle Lovric's The Mourning Emporium (Orion, £9.99) is a sequel to The Undrowned Child but works as a stand-alone. Teo and Renzo have magical powers and are trying to defeat Il Traditore, who has flooded Venice in 1900. Mermaids, nuns, cormorants, seagulls, Syrian cats and vampire eels add to the action as it shifts to London and back to Venice. It's a big-cast world of adventures, frights and near misses clearly influenced by Philip Pullman, Charles Dickens and CS Lewis.' Susan Elkin, Independent, December 19th  

'Do you feel the chill? I certainly do. Michelle Lovric’s The Mourning Emporium doesn’t have lots of snow, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for with ice. Ice in Venice. (Well, you can see from the name of that great city that ice is part of it.) Ice in London. And ice in-between.
     This sequel to The Undrowned Child starts at Christmas with very cold weather in Venice, followed by illness and death. That’s dead Venetians and a few weeks later a dead Queen Victoria.
     The villain Bajamonte Tiepolo is back and he’s behind all the deaths, except possibly that of the dear old Queen. Teo’s parents have been kidnapped and the mermaids have decamped to London. Soon everybody else – of those who are still alive – are on their way to London too, on a creaky old ship.
     There’s less of the lovely food this time, because the London mermaids don’t hold with curry. Unfortunately. They like patent medicines, which is less tasty on the whole. Teo and Renzo and their shipmates meet a gang of London street urchins, whose job it is to cry. Hence the Mourning Emporium. Mourning is big business, even without Victoria’s imminent funeral to look forward to.
     Just as in Venice, London is dying and it’s up to Teo and Renzo and their new friends to stop Bajamonte Tiepolo.
     Plenty of humour here ("cast asparagus") and some new loveable characters, mostly animal. Sleeping with squirrels is a new trend for the cold. Seems they can keep you warm. White rats. Ew. Fat weasels. The whole zoo.
     Great story, and Teo is another of those likeable heroines in fiction.' Bookwitch blog, December 1st



'In this standalone sequel to The Undrowned Child, Michelle Lovric has provided another rip-roaring tale of amazing ingenuity and inventiveness. The date is December 1900, and the villainous real-life Venetian traitor, Bajamonte Tiepolo, has moved his sights from Venice to London, where Queen Victoria is on her deathbed. With Venice in the fatal grip of an icy lagoon of bad magic, the Venetian heroes, Teo(dora) and Renzo, set sail in the Scilla for London, where they are ably abetted by a wonderful cast of mermaids, orphans, Venetian pumpkin-sellers known as the Incogniti, a circus master, ghosts and, best of all, a talking English bulldog, Turtledove.
    Lovric’s imaginative characterisation knows no bounds, and her dialogue sparkles with wit. For an adult reader, who unashamedly loved every word of it, the book gives a glimpse of the weird and wonderful Victorian world – the mourning emporium of the title was a reality, and a host of other details – including the quack medicines and contraptions used by the hypochondriac English mermaids – are based on historical fact; for younger readers, it offers a treasure trove of delight, with an action-packed plot spiced by historical events and magic.'
Lucinda Byatt, Historical Novel Society website

'The Undrowned Child is a book that makes me excited about books – about the art of story-telling, about imagination, about the cleverness and beauty of the English language, about great characters and about the ability of a story to transport you someplace else. It was the best kids book I read last year, and I only happened onto it because I was searching for kids/YA books that had mermaids in them, and this one came up. It is a shame it doesn’t seem to be well-known (as far as I can tell, in Australia). Maybe the release of the second in the series, The Mourning Emporium, will change that – I hope so, because The Undrowned Child has all the qualities that made Harry Potter so popular and successful – wit, humour, adventure, genuine chills, complex, appealing characters and story-telling that is completely immersive ... The Undrowned Child is a fantastic mix of real Venetian history, fascinating mythology/fairy-tale and a subtle coming-of-age story concerning Teo, our heroine. The sub-plot involving her feelings for the infuriating Renzo is touching and beautifully done, her attitude towards their whole relationship spot-on for the no-longer-child but not-quite-teen. Teo is flawed and she and Renzo make mistakes in their mission to save Venice, but this makes their endearing characters realistic and us empathetic to their many dilemmas.
      I was enthralled by just about every character in The Undrowned Child, whether they play a big part or small. Lovric has a way with characterisation and their encounters with each other are a joy to read. I loved Lovric’s take on mermaids, and her hierarchy of ghosts. Her "evil" characters are genuinely scary and she creates some awesome atmosphere with many of her set-pieces.
      Where The Undrowned Child really sucked me in was that it is genuinely witty and sharp, thanks in part to Teo’s way of seeing the world. Her dialogue is some of the best I’ve read in a children’s book, and her characters come out with such funny and interesting ways of expressing themselves. I did notice that she seems to have a disregard for using the word said – all her characters exclaim, or talk despondently, or sob, or exclaim snootily, and so on. This goes against just about everything I’ve been taught about writing, but you know what? For this book, I think it works. It’s all part of the book’s quirky charm.
      Love, love, loved The Undrowned Child. Maybe not suitable for younger readers – but this in intelligent, amusing, captivating story-telling, and I only hope Lovric gets the recognition she deserves.' Samantha Ellis, The Book Grotto website

‘This is a sequel to Lovric's young adult novel The Undrowned Child, in which the heroine, Teo, defeated the bad guy. The half-man, half-bat in question is one Bajamonte Tiepolo, who has now returned to the stricken city of Venice despite a prophecy that has identified Teo and her friend Renzo as the only people who can save the city. And now Tiepolo has his eye on London as Teo and Renzo find themselves aboard a boat filled with orphans bound for that bereaved city.
      If you don't recognise the influence of J.K. Rowling on the plot in the first few pages then you have not been paying attention but the writing style and vision are quite different. Lovric is a prolific writer and editor who also writes for adults. Her richly dark imagination is often also in evidence here. She is clever, witty and richly informed and there is plenty in this book to entertain adults as well as younger readers.’  Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

The Undrowned Child is … full of characters and rich detail to satisfy the most imaginative child (or adult!). It’s a complex story, scary with risk, with death, ghosts, and revenge, but in which the dangers are off-set by such delightful inventions as mermaids who have a taste for curry and run a secret printing press. In such a context, it doesn’t seem so surprising that a librarian may turn into a cat …   
     [In] The Mourning Emporium … the period depiction of London is just as thrilling as that of Venice : the contrasts are obvious, but both places are sites of that age-old confrontation between good and evil. Tiepolo is back, and once again the children and other powers for good must do battle against all that is unkind, destructive and cruel. And again it is the sheer inventiveness of image and language that make the book as satisfying to devour as a large piece of rich fruit cake ― delicious as well as nutritious ...   
     Then there are the wonderfully Dickensian names to wallow in (Tobias Putrid, Rosibund Greyhoare, Ann Picklefinch, Peaglum) and lyrical ones to enjoy (Sofonisba, Fabrizio, Rosato …), and the humour of a large, talking, child-protecting bull-dog bearing the unlikely name of Turtledove. And we meet a whole range of ways of using language as we hear the idiosyncratic accents and vocabulary of the different characters. But none of this holds up the fast pace of the story …     
     For sheer joy, and above all for the development of a child’s imagination, we need books like the ones Michelle Lovric is offering us. ‘Imagination’ is the greatest gift we can give our children: without its ability to help us be other than we are, to imagine ourselves into other people’s shoes and to create worlds ― better worlds ― that do not yet exist, civilization falls into barbarity. '  City-Lit website, February 2011

'You can almost smell the poverty and gin wafting off the pages ... strange story makes gripping historical fantasy.' Flipside, December 2010

'As in the first novel, we find the same mix of historical fact and delicious fantasy and I can only imagine how many hours of research Michelle must have put into writing this book. It's a book aimed at children, peopled with magical mermaids, gigantic killer squid, talking animals and ghostly pirates, but a section at the end of the novel also tells you what was real and what wasn't in the novel and we learn that a surprising number of elements are actually based on historical fact. If only history lessons at school could be so interesting - it would be great for teachers to have poetic license and be allowed to throw a few warrior mermaids in for good measure to liven up the lessons a bit!  
    
Once again, Michelle adds a few life lessons in to the mix, looking at friendship, bravery, loyalty and sacrifice, but also jealousy, mistrust and prejudice (both amongst the children and their mermaid friends). The London street children, who remind me slightly of Fagin's boys in Oliver Twist, show the sad reality of life for many children at the turn of the last century and will strike a chord with young readers. ' Madhouse Family Reviews blogspot, March 2011

'This is the sequel to one of my faves - if not favourite - children's books last year. These books have all the makings of classics - they are so imaginative and intelligent and immersive, and at their hearts is such a celebration of story-telling ... One of the best written series out there at the moment.' Bookgrotto, May 2011

'The sequel to Lovric's The Undrowned Child moves from Venice to the dark, narrow backstreets of Victorian London, where an evil plot to supplant the Royal succession threatens the country. Teo and Renzo - the Studious Son - continue their roles in the ancient prophecy and are charged with saving the city, inhabited by comic drugged mermaids, pirates and talking bulldogs.  Where Lovric’s earlier book was heavy on ghouls and horror, the more familiar and funnier London locations and characters ameliorate that tendency, and provide a more readily accessible and understandable account of Victorian pseudo-history. There are parallels with characters in Peter Pan, and Lovric creates an entertaining adventure which offers great opportunities for readers to research Victorian history and society.' Booktrust, November 2011

'I loved reading this book as much as the first in the series, he Undrowned Child, as the characters are so well described and the plot is so gripping. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading fantasy fiction.' Danielle Harris, Teen Titles, October 2012

'I wanted to read this as soon as I heard the title. I love the idea of mourning emporiums (historically, stores which sold nothing but mourning clothes and accessories) and wanted to see how another author would fit them into a book. The story had me on the edge of my seat: it's a sparkling, whirling mass of a book, different from any other historical fiction you'll read. It takes place in a sort of alternative Venice and moves to London, and there's a great cast of characters including mermaids, a clever cat and a whimsical and wonderful talking dog. Ingenious!' Mary Hooper, the Guardian 14 May 2013








             Publishers:
             UK - Orion

 

Talina in the Tower
 
 

 ‘This fantastical tale not only offers a richly detailed historical view of Venice, but also provides a vividly imaginative take on the city (an interesting section at the back gives an account of what is true and what is not – it is a great insight into Venetian history and legend). Imbued with magic, mystery and a rip-roaring plot, this book is a gripping read for older children, with lyrical and compelling prose, and a depiction of a fantasy Venice that is both evocative and beautiful.’ Italia Magazine, February 2012

 

  ‘I love a great story that takes you on a whirlwind adventure and to be honest Michelle's writing always does that for me. Here in the latest release is a story that gives you magic, high adventure and of course an overall arc that will enchant you from the first page to the last. Add to this Michelle's solid use of prose, cracking dialogue and a lead character that the readers will want to embark on their adventure with and it's a story that was a pure joy to read.
Finally add to this a sense of whimsy, an enchanting story overall and a whole host of supporting cast members that will make this a hard tale to forget. Great stuff.’ Gareth Wilson , Amazon, February 2012

 

‘Talina is a delightful main character. She is determined and outspoken, ready to publically criticise people who kill egrets for their feathers, and to argue with her teacher. She is not always easy to live with, as quick to condemn as to love, but her stubborn spirit and her willingness to try anything, no matter how dangerous or bizarre, to achieve her ends are exactly the qualities she will need to call upon as she finds herself in peril after peril. This contrasts strongly with the majority of the adults of Venice , who are portrayed as passive, even cowardly, in their refusal to see the truth right under their noses, or to believe their children, who are the only ones able to see the magic-ridden predators.   Venice itself is so well portrayed that it becomes a character in its own right. Its narrow streets, its murky canals and dark, secret towers are the setting for an astonishing world of witches, hags, mermaids and magicians. Tea towels become means of transport, ordinary household ingredients are combined into potions, and a small boy is allowed to stand up in court and argue for the preservation of the city. The book is an exciting, amusing and enchanting read.’ Linda Lawlor, The Bookbag, January 2012

 

Venice is conjured up in all her shabby glory: the mould, the shattered stone, the dank alleys, and the looming presence of the lagoon.  This is no coffee-table book image to entice tourists. Michelle spends half her time living in a flat overlooking the Grand Canal . She knows the real city and that knowledge oozes through every page of this book, so that when the city's funeral takes place you react as if one of the characters were being mourned.   But the story isn't just about setting. There is an actioned packed plot, with wonderful characters, fantastical beasts, and a deliciously wry, dry sense of humour threading all the way through. And there are mischief and mayhem, horror and gore, fun and games. I don't think I've enjoyed reading something so much for ages and I just wish I had young enough children to read this out loud to them at bed-time, because it's got exactly the sort of language that makes you want to read it out loud.’ J.E. Towey, February 2012

 

‘Michelle Lovric has once again created a rollicking adventure full of history, awesome imagination and fantastic characters of all sorts.  I've been a huge fan since the day I first read The Undrowned Child, and she does not disappoint with this new Venetian tale, set some 30 odd years before The Undrowned Child.  Talina is a force to be reckoned with, smart, with a voracious appetite for reading (she can read one book with each eye, though this can cause some calamities like faulty spells), and a trouble maker with a temper when backed into a corner.  She's renowned as the terror of the neighbourhood and it's all these qualities that make her funny and charming to the reader- though likely nobody you'd want to have to babysit in real life.
As is her style, Lovric’s latest story has twice the cast of animals and magical creatures then humans.  Everything from vicious hyena/wolf hybrids to ghosts, rats and cats, fill the pages.  Many of them are so much fun they steal the scene every time they crop up.  I was especially fond of the bully stray cats Bestard-Belou and Albicocco.  Lovric’s use of language always lends a special quality to her stories, and the cats are certainly no exception. Her writing is witty and full of fabulous vocabulary, giving any reader the added bonus of brushing up on their intelligent banter by extension.  Without a doubt this will leave younger readers with a fair amount of questions about what certain words mean and it's jokes like this one that makes me wish I could be a fly on the wall for the first parent answering what a Enema is:

Somewhat more reluctantly, she resorted to a fat syringe labelled 'Elf Enemas' to baste her spicy sausages, and only after scrubbing it out first.’ The Diary of a Bookworm, February 2012

 

‘At first, the book seems predictable, because it seems like the same old kidnapping story. But then, the story takes off in a different direction, and I couldn’t put this book down. I enjoyed it immensely, especially the ending. I liked the female creatures – but I can’t say any more without giving it away! I’d love to go to Venice , after having read the book – it’s got canals instead of streets. Venice really helps the story – if it was set in Croydon, it wouldn’t work. I found this book funny, filled with action and informative. Overall I give this book five stars out of five. Read it!’ We Love This Book, February 2012

 

‘I think this book deserves five out of five stars. You could tell I was enjoying this book because whenever I read it I had a smile on my face. This book was so good than even when my parents were talking loudly (they’re very noisy) I was swept away into its magical adventures.’ Bellusaurus sui, Biblioteca Reviews, January 2012

 

‘Or ‘”twenty-two” things to do to a tea towel. That could be by magic or in more traditional ways. The tea towels in Michelle Lovric’s new book are both useful and quite obedient. And that tells you a little about what kind of story Talina in the Tower is. There’s lots of magic and plenty of adventure. Talina is another feisty young heroine, rather like Teodora from The Undrowned Child, except she lives in Venice over thirty years before Teodora, at a time when there’s another horrible threat to this beautiful city. The reader will recognise many of the characters in Talina either as a younger version of someone from Teodora’s time, or as someone bearing the same surname as one of the later characters. It’s nice with the continuity, and in an odd way it’s reassuring to know that they didn’t live ‘happily ever after,’ because we already know more trouble happens ... As usual in Michelle’s books there’s lots of food, although not all of it terribly appetising. This is an exciting tale of courage and friendship and love for your family. I think Talina in the Tower might be even better than the other two novels. Or I might think so because it’s my most recently read book. The beautiful cover is purple. That always helps.’ Bookwitch, February 2012

 

‘My verdict: brilliant fun! A lively fantasy adventure for 8+. 

I really liked Talina as a character. I do have a soft spot for bold girls and Talina is certainly that. Famous for her impudence and temper, she has the nerve to go against adult characters (who can be in the wrong) and to fight to save her parents and Venice as a whole. She also does develop through the course of the story and isn't quite the same Talina at the end as at the beginning.  The narration is third person, allowing some comment on and description of Talina from the outside and there are some wonderful touches in the dialogue. I appreciated the way some of the male cats spoke, showing their masculinity and roughness (like "dat's da troof"), and the fake French accents used by the Ravageurs to hide their true origins … Once of the things I loved most about this book was the addition at the back of a section entitled "What is real and what is made up". These few pages precisely outline which elements of the story are factual and which are invented (unsurprisingly!). I would have loved this kind of detail as a child, and I'm sure my daughter will lap this up too. I was surprised at some of the small details which had come from historical fact; this section definitely added to my enjoyment of the book. Overall, this is a classic children's fantasy with magical creatures, well-rounded characters and plenty of twists and setbacks.’ Beth Kemp, Thoughts from the Hearthfire, February 2012


‘I loved the characters in the book. They were full of quirks that made them so real and extremely funny. Talina is a very strong character - no one messes with her. She is like a tornado as she jumps in head first to sort the whole of Venice out almost single handedly. I think she is one of the strongest female characters I have read since finishing meeting Katniss in The Hunger Games. Her love for her family spurs her into action and she will stop at nothing until she finds her parents. The writing is beautiful and descriptive allowing you to sample life in Venice just by turning the page. The imagery is stunning and I found myself  desperately wanting to visit Venice , but with Michelle as my tour guide.  With each description of Venice , you can tell how much the author loves the city; her words breathe out enthusiasm and affection.  The dialogue is hilarious. I loved the accents of the cats in it, it truly brought them to life. I  love the way the author has intermingled fantasy with reality. A cast of fantasy and mythical creatures intermingling with humans as they wander through the real streets of Venice . The plot had me hooked from the first page, as I wondered what on earth was happening to all the people of the town. Michelle Lovric has created an enchanting novel that has left me wanting more.’  Serendipity Reviews, February 2012

 

‘…But on to the most important part - the story itself. Once again, we are instantly plunged into the magical, enchanting world of Venice with descriptions so evocative that you can actually feel the cold mist, taste the salty breeze and smell the mouldy damp and the faint whiff of fish as you read. The waterlogged city is once again under attack from strange other-wordly creatures. Now, I loved the combattant mermaids in the previous books with their ancient oaths picked up from the pirates and their permanent whiff of curry so I was sad to learn that they were out of town in this novel, otherwise occupied fighting distant battles, but I was soon won over by the new villains, the Ravageurs. Pretending to be French, these slobbering wolf/hyena crossbreeds speak with an atrocious French accent that kept bringing to mind Monty Python's The Holy Grail. Although the book is definitely aimed at children, it's a fabulous read for adults too and some of the wordplay would go straight over young readers' heads. For example, I laughed out loud at the wild witches who need years to calm their outrageous ways until they are "coven-ready", knowing that kids wouldn't even see the joke.  But children are central to the plot as, once again, the only person who can hope to save the ill-fated city is a child, albeit a very special not-quite-cat child with a high level of impudence and a few magic tricks up her sleeve. I would love to share Talina's ability to read two books simultaneously!  The cast of supporting characters is full of extravagant and unforgettable individuals too, including the lovable Venetian grannies and the long-repressed female Ravageurs, who give a lovely message to younger readers that you shouldn't listen to anyone who tells you you're worthless.’ Cheryl Pasquier, Madhouse Family Reviews, February 2012

 

 'This is intelligently written: beautiful prose, witty dialogue, plus enough gore and gruesome Venetian history to satisfy modern children. Her first children's book, The Undrowned Child, had imagery so potent that it followed me into my dreams.' Patricia Guy, March 2012

 

‘Reading Talina in the Tower was a lovely experience that took me back to those summer days when I was a kid, devouring one book after another. With a touch of history and a sprinkling of magic set in a spectacular backdrop, this was a lovely book to read and enjoy … To say this story is wonderfully creative would be an understatement. It is more than that – vivid, believable, well written, and heart-wrenching. Despite the eclectic collection of creatures and people, it makes sense and is believable. They seem real and leaped off the pages as I read along. The adventure quest took me from one set of troubles to the next, always keeping those pages turning. This novel is aimed at the young adult market, but can be enjoyed by adults as well because the prose and story is rich and not overly simplified. From the beauty of its breath-taking cover to the wonderfully emotional tale told with spell-binding prose, this is a treasure of a book I’ve placed lovingly on my collector’s shelf – one to keep and pass on to the next generation of children in my family.’ Historical Review blogspot, April 2012

‘I'm a bit embarrassed that this is my first Michelle Lovric book despite the fact that I have loved the look of them and thought that each one sounds fascinating. I've finally put this right and have to say that I had an idea in my head of how Talina would read and I was both right - and wrong. I mean, I expected it to be a Venetian fairy story full of magic, and it is but there's a lot more to Talina than this. I wasn't expecting the book to be so funny, so full of horror and to be so innovative. The heroine was a surprise to me too. I thought she'd be resourceful and fearless and she was but she was also foolish and at times infuriating. But she also has a huge heart and is charming, a true flawed heroine … There's brilliant magic throughout this book that made me constantly wonder what was going to happen next. I was very fond of the idea of Thaumaturgic Tea Towels that can be ridden like magic carpets but if damaged can be torn into four and reform themselves and can also be a great handkerchief if needed. I also loved the island of grandmothers and their cats who all adore Talina and watch out for her when they can. Magic is interwoven through the pages in such a way that it's entirely natural but also wonderfully surprising too. Later in the book there's a court case and everything about it made me smile. The jury and onlookers are all manner of people, creatures and the paranormal. You really couldn't ask for more from a book. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I think it would appeal as much to boys as well as girls as it has plenty of gore alongside the magical to keep everyone happy. I'm definitely going to read Michelle's other books based in Venice too.’ My Favourite Books blogspot, March 2012

‘I love a great story that takes you on a whirlwind adventure and to be honest Michelle’s writing always does that for me. Here in the latest release is a story that gives you magic, high adventure and of course an overall arc that will enchant you from the first page to the last. Add to this Michelle’s solid use of prose, cracking dialogue and a lead character that the readers will want to embark on their adventure with and it’s a story that was a pure joy to read.

Finally add to this a sense of whimsy, an enchanting story overall and a whole host of supporting cast members that will make this a hard tale to forget. Great stuff.’ Tatty’s Treasure Chest, February 2012

‘I want to call Michelle's books a guilty pleasure, but I think that would be doing them a gross disservice as it implies that I shouldn't really be loving them as much as I do. Perhaps I should replace the word 'guilty' for 'the ultimate story-lover's', for that is what they are to me. Each one of these three books has contained a story that I have luxuriated in reading, the kind of stories I never wanted to finish, but when they did they left me feeling complete … Michelle Lovric has a command of the English language that many authors can only dream of, which can make her stories a little hard going for less able readers. However, I would not be surprised if many confident young readers choose to read her books again and again. Michelle uses her rich prose to weave a luxurious tapestry of a fairytale, populated with colourful characters, the dialogue between whom is another stand out feature of the story. It is at times funny, poignant, or menacing, depending on who is doing the talking, and what the situation is, and I would dearly love to see these stories adapted for the screen, with a cast of our greatest living actors to do them the justice they deserve.’ Bookzone4boys blogspot, March 2012

'I thought for a long time about whether this book could be called an historical novel or not. It certainly has fairy-tale and magical elements which argue against it. On the other hand, it is obvious that Michelle Lovric has done her homework; the novel is set in a very real, precisely dated Venice , whose sights, sounds and smells come across with wonderful clarity. It is also more than just a tale of magic. This is a story of human greed, evil-doing, repentance, forgiveness and redemption which resonates long after you’ve finished reading. It concerns exploitation (the Ravageurs were paid for their land with a few cheap trinkets and sweets); imperialism (the Venetians feel themselves to be superior and look down on nearby Rovigo ); and human rights (the female Ravageurs are kept in a state of subservience and ignorance), all of which are still relevant today. ' Historical Novel Society’s website, May 2012

‘I was especially pleased to learn about this book, not only because I adore Italian historical fiction, but because it is aimed towards the youth market. The beautiful cover art drew me to it even more and made reading it a true pleasure. It is a wonderful book to introduce history and fantasy to an avid young reader. Girls especially will love it, but so will boys. Reading Talina in the Tower was a lovely experience that took me back to those summer days when I was a kid, devouring one book after another. With a touch of history and a sprinkling of magic set in a spectacular backdrop, this was a lovely book to read and enjoy. It is the tale of a bold girl whose parents are missing. She is forced to live with an evil guardian who writes books about children who meet tragic ends, but she is determined to persevere and sets out in search for her parents. Born with the ability to read two books simultaneously, Talina accidently turns herself into a cat while reading a magic book and recipe at the same time.  And then a magical adventure begins filled with fascinating characters, terrible creatures, and a very nasty villain. To say this story is wonderfully creative would be an understatement. It is more than that – vivid, believable, well written, and heart-wrenching. Despite the eclectic collection of creatures and people, it makes sense and is believable. They seem real and leaped off the pages as I read along. The adventure quest took me from one set of troubles to the next, always keeping those pages turning. This novel is aimed at the young adult market, but can be enjoyed by adults as well because the prose and story is rich and not overly simplified. From the beauty of its breath-taking cover to the wonderfully emotional tale told with spell-binding prose, this is a treasure of a book I’ve placed lovingly on my collector’s shelf – one to keep and pass on to the next generation of children in my family.’ History and Women blogspot, April 2012

'Michelle Lovric is one of my favourite children's authors working today. I have been a big fan since I read her first children’s novel The Undrowned Child – her story-telling skills are top notch. Talina in the Tower, like Lovric’s two books before it, is written with imagination, intelligence, humour that snaps and loving attention to Venice and its history. If you truly want to escape, her books are your means to. Talina in the Tower is set in late nineteenth-century Venice . It is described with gothic flare; on the brink of disaster and inhabited by frightened people and even more frightening creatures. I really enjoy Lovric’s cast lists. Talina is populated with vultures, sarcastic rats, cat gangs, Ravageurs (think evil, malformed wolves) and human characters even more quirky and strange than the creatures roaming about all around them. All Lovric’s characters have this gorgeous pantomimic quality this is endearing rather than over-the-top. I am actually jealous of some of the amazing character creations she comes up with. She obviously takes great joy in crafting their dialogue and it is fantastic stuff. Talina is along the Teo mould from The Undrowned Child: wilful; clever; impudent, temperamental and brave. She has a huge heart and is wonderfully resourceful. I love girl characters like this. She is the perfect character to go on this adventure with. I also love how Lovric can so easily make ‘evil’ characters multi-faceted with just a few paragraphs. The story is plot-heavy and full of twists and turns. It is dark and doesn’t shy away from barbaric or mature themes. But this is where Lovric’s wonderful humour kicks in. She has a great knack for capturing peripheral action, and there are some brilliant asides and observations from characters who are observing the main action (the story is told in third person). She also makes Venice and its history alive and interesting, and manages the perfect balance of fact and fiction. It took me a while to open up the book, because I knew how dense Lovric’s books can be (in a good way). But once I started reading Talina I was hooked. If it sounds like I’m raving it’s because I am. Lovric has some of the best children’s writing out there. I wish my own books reach the same imaginative highs as hers.’ Book Grotto blog, January 2012

'Mysterious weird happenings are beautifully integral to the complex plots of books by Michelle Lovric and in Talina in the Tower the setting is Venice with awful Ravageur creatures on the prowl. Talina is housed in a remote tower with her odd guardian but can venture out and about in her own catness disguise into a city of magic and magical history.' School Librarian, summer 2013










Publishers: UK - Orion
 
 

The Fate in the Box

A novel for children
Orion  www.orionbooks.co.uk
May 2nd, 2013



'The book is superbly plotted with some very enchanting ideas e.g. walls that have tiny ears to listen in on anyone who criticises the evil ruler. The lazy inhabitants rely on various automata inventions which are described in particularly vivid detail and will easily capture your imagination e.g. magical talking statues, winged cats and the infamous mermaids (from the previous books) that are known as the protectors of Venice. There is so much going on in this story that you are never quite sure what's coming around the corner. It could be amazingly written dialogue one minute quickly followed by humour and laughs the next. With a combination of suspense, mystery, horror and mayhem this story really does have the lot. It is a truly creative and, in my opinion, a one of a kind reading experience. I'm really looking forward to the next book...' Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books, May 2013

'A highly imaginative read, The Fate in the Box is full of exotic characters, exciting twists and chilling portents – perfect for young, enquiring minds. The story enchants the reader immediately with its elegant Venetian setting, complete with gondolas, superstitious festivities, and a compelling fascination for novelty.
Fusing history with fantasy, fact with fiction, Michelle Lovric creates an incredibly bizarre yet believable world, where anything is possible – think gutter-mouthed mermaids, primeval crocodiles, mechanical monkey priests, courageous children and the perfect archetype baddie, Fogfinger!

The language throughout is both sophisticated and comical, and the multi-dimensional plot delivers on so many levels. You cannot help cheering the characters on as they make their way through mishap and misfortune, bizarre encounters and unexpected turns.

Lovric uses a unique and charismatic approach to standard themes such as good vs evil, right vs wrong, selfishness vs the greater good and the right to redemption and revenge. Overall, The Fate in the Box delivers a gripping blend of nail-biting adventure, brain-tingling mystery and laugh-out-loud slapstick – with a rewarding ending, guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Firmly in the Middle Grade age range, this book would be suitable for any child with a love of mystery, adventure, fantasy or history – and is certain to become a true favourite, read again and again.' Inis Magazine, May 2013

'… even though I find and enjoy lots of fiction related to the places I'm going, it's rare to find an author who is as completely smitten with the place as I am, someone who has delved into a place's history and current affairs and makes it his or her business to really make readers feel they are right there. Michelle Lovric is one of these authors, and Venice is her specialty.  Not that finding companion reading for Venice is difficult, but if you have not yet read The Undrowned Child or its sequel The Mourning Emporium and you're en route to Venice soon make absolutely sure these are in your carry-on bag!  But even if you're not literally off to Venice, if you are a fan of page-turning historical fiction or adventure stories you will love these books … I put Lovric's fictional writing about Venice in the same category as Alan Furst's writing about Paris, Sarah Dunant's writing about Renaissance Florence, Lawrence Durrell's writing about Alexandria, and Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz writing about Fra Filippo Lippi in their book The Miracles of Prato.’ Barrie Kerper, Collected Traveller blogspot, May 2013

‘There is great evil and paranoia in this Italian adventure and much fun to be had in what is really a kind of distant prequel to the wonderful 'Undrowned World' by Ms Lovric … A complex delight with vivid writing that brings old Venice to life in a way that only Michelle Lovric can do.  Are there any mermaids you ask? – Can there just be only one shrivelled specimen in the Museum of Natural History ?  Read on if you dare.  You will not be disappointed.’ Sam Hawksmoor, Hack Writers blog, May 2013

The Fate in the Box is not for the faint-hearted; in the very first chapter, it seems that Amneris is to be sacrificed at the whim of Fogfinger; she is forced to climb a tall tower, where the Fate in the Box will decide whether she will walk back down again or whether the trapdoor beneath her feet will open, catapulting her into the deep lagoon hundreds of feet below where a terrible sea monster is said to lurk. There are far more edge-of-the-seat moments to follow. But the way the story is told is so affirmative that, even as you seriously consider taking shelter behind the sofa, you know that ultimately good – and the children – will triumph. I’d recommend this to boys and girls who enjoy adventure, humour, fantasy, and a good story phenomenally well told. It's published by Orion.’ Sue Purkiss, An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, May 2013

‘The novel is tightly and intricately plotted, with plenty of clues (and red herrings) as to how it will all fit together. I certainly wasn't able to predict the details of the story and there is more than enough to surprise and delight a child reader. Michelle Lovric uses magic and fantastic beasts to help the children, working within the quest and fairy tale traditions of magical helpers, but it is their own bravery which ultimately spurs them on, resulting in a satisfying tale for young readers.’ Beth Kemp, Thoughts from the Hearthfire blog, May 2012

‘To me it feels like Michelle Lovric’s children’s books are getting better and better. I really, really liked The Fate in the Box, which is set in the same fantasy Venice as her previous books, but a little earlier. It’s 1783 and a child is about to be sacrificed. As prologues go, this was a good one. In only a few short pages you get to know and like – love, even – Amneris, and you can just feel that something momentous is going to happen. But you can’t guess what.

The ghastly Irishman Fogfinger has taken over Venice and everyone is scared. Automata do everything for the rich, while the poor get poorer. And hungrier. There is much going on that people don’t understand, but Amneris and her friends Tockle and Biri end up being thrown in at the deep end, in more ways than one. They are brave and friendly and resourceful, like any good fictional heroes should be. They even befriend the rather dreadful Latenia, who is rich and spoilt, and too fat to be sacrificed.

And what about the crocodile that reputedly eats children? Or the strange goings-on in the families of Tockle and Amneris? Talking – and flying – cats seems quite a normal thing, once you get used to this version of Venice . Its statues are not always as stony as they appear.

Things get worse before they can get better. There is an underground movement against Fogfinger, but what can they do? This is just so exciting! And the clever Michelle adds lots of real natural history as well as facts about Venice to her fantasy plot, so there is a risk that the reader gets a worthwhile education. Go on! Take that risk!’ Bookwitch blog, May 2013

  ‘I was very excited when a review copy of The Fate in The Box - or "the book with the monkey's bum on the back cover" as a giggling Juliette instantly dubbed it! - landed on the Madhouse doormat. I always think author Michelle Lovric has a totally unique voice - her tales are an enchanting blend of magical fairytalesque children's story and incisive analysis of human failings and motivations so her writing appeals as much to adults as to children … The Fate In The Box takes us back to Venice, once again under the tyranny of an evil villain who is destroying the city and its inhabitants with his demonic minions. The terrifying Fogfinger has spies everywhere and walls really do have ears so nobody is safe from his Fog Squad. The Venetians live in fear on a day to day basis, but more particularly when the terrible annual Lambing Ceremony comes around - a child picked by Fogfinger must climb the steps of the belltower and rely on the Fate in The Box to see if he or she must leap to almost certain death in the murky waters of the canal below. If drowning doesn't cause their sad demise, the horrific Primeval Crocodile reputed to be living in the lagoon surely will. But Michelle Lovric is writing for tweens and teens so it's all very PG-rated and the baddies will eventually be defeated. Unlikely heroes Anmeris and Tockle will embark on a dangerous and exciting adventure, meeting eccentric characters and uncovering the most mysterious secrets of the city they live in, with a little help from a magical glass kaleidoscope and - yippee! Those fabulous curry-addicted mermaids that we met in the previous adventures!

Michelle Lovric creates some wildly imaginative creatures and personalities, including the city of Venice itself which becomes so much more than just a setting for the action, almost taking on the role of an integral character in the plot. It's an exciting, fantastical tale but as a grown-up, I also love the underlying message that we shouldn't rely on machines and technology so much - there's a great lesson in there for our kids (and even grown-ups) if they pick up on it. Madhouse Family Reviews, August 7th, 2013

‘Fogfinger rules Venice. His Fog Squad and spies are everywhere. The Venetians fear him and obey him. Every year one of their children is lost in a grisly Lambing ceremony. The child must climb the bell tower and let the Fate in the Box decide their destiny. Most end their days in the jaws of the primeval Crocodile that lurks in the lagoon. Or so Fogfinger tells them. But a chance meeting by a green apricot tree between Amneris and Tockle may be the beginning of the end for Fogfinger. Silk and sewing, a magical glass kaleidoscope, mermaids and misunderstood Sea-Saurs, talking statues and winged cats, blue glass sea-horses, a spoiled rich girl and a secret society are just some of the ingredients in Michelle Lovric's exquisitely imagined and superbly plotted fourth fantasy set in Venice. Writer Michelle Lovric takes us back to her beloved Venice in The Fate in the Box, her fourth book for children set in this magical city. As with her previous book, Talina in the Tower, this is a standalone novel that can be read without first reading her other books, although fans of her previous stories will take great delight in spotting the occasional familiar character, and in particular those foul-mouthed mermaids that first entertained us so much in The Undrowned Child. Venice is in trouble again. Or rather, as this is set more than one hundred years before Michelle's other three stories, perhaps that should just be Venice is in trouble. The evil and dictatorial Fogfinger rules over the city with an iron fist, and anyone who speaks out against his rule seems to vanish overnight, with only rumours between locals giving any indication of where they may have gone. When Fogfinger came to Venice he brought with him his wonderful clockwork inventions, and now the elite of Venice have become fat, lazy and pretty useless as they rely on these contraptions to do pretty much everything for them. They do not even wind the machines themselves - the desperate and hungry poor are tasked with carrying out this soul-destroying job every night whilst the rich sleep. Fogfinger's devices are everywhere - the aforementioned crime of being caught saying something against the state is a common occurrence, given that the walls literally have ears, devices known as Anagrammaticular. Yet again, the heroes of Michelle story are a mixed bunch of children; kids who in other circumstances would probably never have been friends, but who come together to fight against evil. Amneris is from a family renowned for their needlework, and she is tasked with the fine embroidery. Every morning without fail Amneris turns a mysterious kaleidoscope seven times, and then replicates the pattern with coloured threads. These designs are incredibly popular and keep the family well away from the doorstep of poverty. Temistocle is much further down the poverty ladder, his mother being a water seller. He is from a family of kaleidoscope makers, but his father is long absent and Tockle, as he is known, has no idea where he is. And then there is Biri, a young con artist who lives off the streets, both of her parents having been exiled to Serbia for being members of the Piccoli Pochi, a secret society dedicated to overthrowing Fogfinger. Together these three must fight the evil of Fogfinger's regime whilst evading the secret police and the horrific Lambing - the annual ceremony where a child of Venice is sacrificed to keep at bay the Primaeval Crocodile that the city folk believe lives in the depths of the canal. Seriously? Do I really need to write a review of this book? I have totally loved every one of the three Venice-set books that Michelle has already written for children. In my review for Talina in the Tower I stated that "Each one of these three books has contained a story that I have luxuriated in reading, the kind of stories I never wanted to finish, but when they did they left me feeling complete" and this statement stands for The Fate in the Box as well. With this, her fourth book, surely it is time that Michelle is lauded by all as one of the current greats, along with the likes of David Almond, John Boyne, and even Neil Gaiman. I certainly enjoyed this a lot more than I did The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Again, at the root of this story is the classic battle of good against evil, and Michelle Lovric writes evil very well indeed. Fogfinger is possibly her most devious and despicable villain to date, and his control of Venice is absolute. He has cleverly managed to wheedle his way into the affections of the city's elite, and then though his mechanical creations has created a reliance amongst them stronger than any Class A drug. The Lambing Ceremony is a perfect example of just how much the people rely on him - they will even 'allow' children to be sacrificed because Fogfinger says that it is required. This, right from the very beginning of the book, we are left wondering just how the three children who are our heroes could possibly survive against such evil, and our hearts pound as readers as they experience peril after peril. Michelle's imagination is up there with the very best of writers around at the moment (and yes, I do include the aforementioned Gaiman in that statement), and she is writing stories that nobody else is producing for children at the moment: wildly imagined fantasy stories, with a firm grounding in the historical Venice, but with the city reimagined so well that readers will struggle to spot the fine line between what is real history and what is the product of the author's sublime imagination.  These stories are so unlike the majority of books that I read and yet I really, really love them. As a history buff I naturally can't help but love that aspect of the story. Venice is also one of my favourite cities out of those I have visited and so I love this element as well. I also adore Michelle's characters - I cheer on the heroes and I love to hate the villain(s). I also love the way that Michelle plots her stories so expertly - there are twists and turns and red herrings aplenty, and I love trying to guess how the plot will unravel. I could wax lyrical about The Fate in the Box, and its predecessors, for some time, but I appreciate that I am beginning to ramble (again) and if you're not going to pick up one of Michelle's books based on what I have written so far then you probably never will (and it will be your great loss, I tell you). Somewhere I have a must used book mark that bears a quote by the great Mark Twain. I think it goes something like: "My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Fortunately everybody drinks water". Yes, I drink a lot of water, but every now and again I like to partake of a fine wine, and Michelle Lovric's books are among the finest of fine wines available. My thanks go to the ever lovely people at Orion for sending me a copy of this book to read. Bookzone4Boys, August 15th, 2013

'In this richly imagined world there is much of the real Venice; but Lovric wears her learning lightly and the result is a compellingly written fantasy of great originality.' School Librarian, summer 2013

 











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