Vivaldi’s Virgins is told from two view points. The first are the letters that Anna Maria is writing to her mother. These letters are written within the span of one year, when Anna is 14. The rest of the book is told from the view point of Anna Maria as a 40 year old woman, filling in the gaps that the younger Anna’s letters leave blank. I really enjoy this method of story telling, because not only do we get the passion-filled words and ideals of the younger Anna, we also get to see how her choices affected her at an older age. Anna Maria is obviously not happy with a lot of the deeds she committed in her youth, and I think it helped flesh out her character a lot, making her seem like an actually real person. Not that I wouldn’t have felt emotionally attached to Anna Maria’s character without the older voice of reason, but I felt it just added an entirely new layer, and I really appreciated that.
Another thing that I felt was fantastic about this book was the style in which it was written. The entire book is so focused on music and Anna’s love for music that it comes through in the writing style. It was so lyrical.
“The sky on a clear night is a living, pulsating thing. The stars are like musical notes turned to light, and, like notes, they shimmer and swell and fade and fall. The painters have never captured it — but they never will until some painter teaches his colors to dance.”
There were some really beautiful passages in the book. I wish I could pull out all my favorites and share them with you, but that would just end up with me typing most of the book out for you (which I don’t think would be practical or very legal). I’ll share just one more, from a scene in which Anna is getting into trouble once again:
“I know now that ill luck was as much a part of la Befana’s evil mien as the bitterness she harbored in her soul. Tooth decay, smallpox, and time itself had long ago robbed her of the sweet looks that excuse the small cruelties of the fair.
Is there such a thing as evil, plain as simple? She was the closest to it I have ever known. But, even in her, evil was a complicated thing, made of many layers and wearing many masks. Beneath it all there was a wounded thing, more animal than human. The crime was that such a person was allowed to be a teacher here — to have so many tender young souls in her power.”
Not only does Barbara Quick write some really beautiful prose, but she also provides very realistic relationships between all the female characters. As teenaged girls living together, shut off from the rest of the world, cattiness is inevitable! Not everyone got along. Some of the girls were conniving. Others were just plain outcasts. It all felt very genuine. One of my favorite quotes from the book has to do with this topic: “Whoever says that girls are kind has never lived among them.”
All in all, this was such an enjoyable read for me. There were a few moments in the story where I could definitely guess what was coming, and other times I was pleasantly surprised. This was such a fun book! I will be sure to check out some of her other work.