Italy in Books Review: The Glassblower of Murano

The Glassblower of Murano

This month I wanted to go to Venice for the Italy in Books reading challenge. Could this have something to do with my upcoming trip to Venice, for Carnevale?  Maybe so. The book I chose to take me there was The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato.

The Glassblower of Venice begins in 1681 with Corradino Manin, the great maestro of Venetian glassblowers, returning to his birth city from abroad.  He reenters his city at night dressed in all black, except for his white bauta mask, setting the tone for the chapter and the story.  He drops off a book and money at an orphanage, which is obviously intended for one specific girl, and waits, knowing he will be murdered soon.  The last question he asks before the murderer sticks a Venetian glass knife into him is, “Will Leonora be safe?” The questions and the mystery begin….Who killed him? Why? Who is Leonora? What is so important about the book he left behind? 

The next chapter finds us in present-day England with Nora, (short for Leonora).  She’s newly divorced and hoping to find a new life in Venice.  She moves to Venice, the place of her birth and the home of her deceased father.  Leonora plans to become a glassblower like her ancestor, Corradino.  She is successful, initally because of her name, and becomes the first woman glassblower in Venice. 

The mystery surrounding Corradino surfaces to cause Leonora problems, and ultimately her  job.  She searches for all the information on Corradino and his death, certain it will clear both her and Corradino’s name.  The chapters switch between Corradino’s life in Venice during the 1600s and Leonora’s in present-day Venice, and the mystery behind Corradino and his death unfolds.   Also, once in Venice, Leonora finds a love interest (Being in Venice, one MUST have a love interest) which provides more conflicts to the story and to Leonora’s life.  By the end of the book, the mystery is solved and Leonora’s life has changed. 


Blown Glass Tree on Murano
Blown Glass Tree on Murano 


Entrance to a Murano Glass Blowing Shop
Entrance to a Fornace on Murano


I was sad to find that Corradino Manin is an entirely fictional character, although plenty of history on Venice and the art of glassblowing is infused into the story.  We also get information on the Venetian Republic and Venice’s Council of Ten from the 1600s.  

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  What I liked most was how the lives and talents of these two ancestors were similar and become intertwined, even though they lived centuries apart.  Leonora is the main character, but I was more drawn to Corradino.  At times, even Leonora was more concerned with him than herself, her own father, or her lover.  Set in one of my favorite cities, it’s quite an easy read involving mystery, love, and some Venetian history.  If you are interested in Venetian glassblowing, in a fictional setting, the book could also interest you. 

From the story, the book gives me a better appreciation for the art of glassblowing.  Sometimes the art gets lost behind all the bobbles for sale in the touristy souvenir shops throughout Venice.  This story reminds us that those glassblowers are also responsible for so much more; mirrors, chandeliers, and windows in Venice and beyond.  This next trip I know I will look at the windows along the Grand Canal longer and differently.  I’ll search out glass chandeliers in churches and buildings, seeing if there really is that one in the Chiesa della Pieta, mentioned in the book.  When I go to the Cantina Do Mori, I’ll look at the mirrors and think of Venetian glassblowers.  Now, even the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, which has a part in this book along with Louis XIV, will take my mind to Venice.


 Venetian Window



This post is part of the Italy in Books 2011 Reading Challenge.  Check out other reviews on books based in Italy: January’s Italy in Books Challenge.  If you’d like to join the reading challenge, it isn’t too late: Italy in Books Reading Challenge 2011.



Have you read The Glassblower of Murano?  What did you think of the book?  Do you have any other books based in Venice to recommend?




**The photo of the book cover is from the Amazon Associate program. Other photos in this post are mine, all rights are reserved, and may not be used without my permission. 


Related Posts:

Italy in Books: Favorite Books Based in Italy and a Challenge for 2011

Italian Hot Chocolate Recipe and Carnival in Venice

Best Ways to Savor Venice

Cicchetti and Ombra – Little Tastes of Venice

The Italian Teacher, the Friend and a Magical Chocolate Kahlua Budino

A Lesson on Venetian Maskmaking

Burano – Jewel of the Lagoon

Lo Spritz – Happy Hour in Venice

La Bottega ai Promessi ai Sposi

Best Places to Kiss in Italy

A Twist on a Venetian Spritz and Embracing Italian Culture




  1. Esme
    January 28th

    Have you read In The Company of the Courtesan?

  2. Tuula
    January 29th

    Sounds like a very interesting read! I’m a fan of mysteries myself, and if it’s set in Venice, sure to keep us entertained, thanks for sharing your review!(ps. can’t get over the blown-glass tree, stunning)

  3. Corinne @ Gourmantic
    January 30th

    I like how the book will change the way you view certain things on your next trip. I relate but more through old movies than books.
    I loved the 3 Venetian islands – could have easily spent more time in Burano!

  4. Silvia
    January 31st

    Sounds like a good book – I’ll definitely check this out, thanks.

  5. Katy
    January 31st

    I loved that book! It’s a great review of it. I’ve never been to that area of Italy but I long to go, your photos make me want to even more!

  6. Kathy
    January 31st

    Hi Esme – Yes, I have already read “In the Company of a Courtesan.”
    Tuula – I loved that tree made of glass, too. It was still up in February on Murano…it’s from February past. I’ll have to check to see if another glass tree has taken its place since.
    Corinne – Yes, for me, that’s the best thing about reading a story that’s set in another place. I get to learn something new about it, which always gives me “new eyes” with which to see a place, even one I’ve been to many times. I loved Burano, too.
    Silvia – Thanks for the comment. Let me know if you read it and what your impression was.
    Katy – Glad you liked the review. Hope you make it to Venice & Murano, both beautiful places in Italy…also the other island of the lagoon – Burano.

  7. Ciaochowlinda
    February 4th

    Thanks for letting us know about this book and for the subsequent post with all the terrific links. Lucky you to be heading to Venice for Carnevale. I’ve done that twice and you’re so right – everyone should do it at least once. Now I’m off to search for the book.

  8. Paula
    February 8th

    Finished the book. Good story! I echo CiaochowLinda in saying “Lucky you to be heading to Venice for Carnevale.” I was in an Italian-American org. that put on a “faux” Carnevale back in the 80’s and it’s on my bucket list to go to the REAL one before I die. The book just made me drool.

  9. Paula
    February 8th

    Oh, and I loved the story of how the author got married there, with everyone in period costume. THAT is something I would LOVE to do.

  10. Paula
    February 12th

    One more thing: You did an excellent job reviewing this book and tying it to the experience of visiting Venice/Murano. Early in the book there is a detailed description of a chandelier that Corrandino supposedly made; I’m curious as to whether there is a similar chandelier in a place called Santa Maria della Pieta’ (is that a real place?). I also loved the chapter on the Camelopard – being a giraffe-ophile, I have read the history of giraffes being taken around Europe and the chapter touched a chord. Also, the descriptions of glass-blowing were enhanced by my fairly recent visit to the de Young’s exhibit of the work of Chihuly (quintessental modern day glass artist). All in all, I will experience the glasswork differently after having read this. The actual love affair was actually the least interesting part, though it did provide for wonderful “resolution” of the various threads in the end.

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