THE EYE STONE (a
novel of Venice)
Publisher: Europa Editions (May, 2015)
Reviewed by Sam Waas
Mr. Tiraboschi presents an extraordinary historical mystery in The Eye Stone. His novel is reminiscent of the great Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
Medieval monk and copyist Edgardo d’Arudnio has a fine reputation among his early 12th century Italian peers, but his vision is failing and he fears that he’ll soon be unable to continue his meticulous life’s work of copying ancient documents for the monastic library.
Rumors circulate about a magical, transparent “stone” which restores faulty vision, and that it’s available in the tumultuous and fragmented island-bound republic of Venice. Edgardo takes his friend Ademaro into his confidence, and the two monks travel to Venice under the ruse that they wish to visit the abbey there to share copy techniques and meet with their fellow monks. But trouble comes from almost the moment they arrive, a large and out-of-control fire leveling many homes and businesses. And soon thereafter, a brutal murder. Both monks are drawn into the chaos while they continue to search for the truth about the mythic stone that may cure Edgardo’s vision.
The Eye Stone is a highly intelligent novel, intricately plotted and precise, full of historical details and considerable depth of characterization. This is not a fast nor an easy read but it’s rewarding, providing an exceptional portrait of the burgeoning lifestyles in early Venice as well as monastic life in that time.
Mr. Tiraboschi does however serve up a heavy portion of historical background that often sends the reader scurrying to the dictionary or perhaps Wikipedia. Not all of us are cognizant of the terminology concomitant with monastic life, and a small measure of exposition would have been helpful. For example, an early passage states that “...bells had summoned the monks to Lauds.” whereas a small addition might have been “...bells had summoned the monks to Lauds, the daybreak service of prayer.” These little helping phrases are generally inserted by an author to better educate the uninitiated about lesser known facts, and more of them would have been a boon.
But this is only a minor criticism. The Eye Stone is an extraordinary and carefully crafted novel that will prove a delight, especially for fans of historical mysteries.
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