Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick

Dearest Mother,

Since I was first taught to dip a quill and pen my ABC's, I have imagined writing to you. I have written many such letters in my mind, and you have read them. They made you weep. With the power of exquisite music exquisitely performed, they called you back to this place to claim me. Have I ever been in your thoughts, as you have been in mine? Would my eyes remind you of the infant I was when you last saw me? When I happen upon my reflection in a dark window, I am sometimes startled to see a young woman's face looking back at me. How much more surprised would you be to see the transformation wrought by time? Here, within these stone walls where you have left me, I have grown like those plants that are cultivated indoors, with shallow roots and always turning toward whatever sunshine can be stolen from the day outside.....

Stephanie Says:

And so begins the first of many letters that Anna Maria dal Violin would write to the mother that left her as an infant at the Ospedale della Pieta. Sister Laura, one of the nuns at the Pieta suggested she write letters to her mother as a release of feelings that she held inside. Anna knew nothing about her mother or father, her family, or where she come from.

At the age of 8, Anna Maria was brought before the famous "Red Priest" of Venice, Antonio Vivaldi, to play her violin. Aside from the Orphanage, there was also a revered music school, where Vivaldi was the maestro and composer. Vivaldi was so moved by her playing that Anna Maria was the youngest girl to ever be made one of the fourteen iniziate, an apprentice musician of the coro. It was a huge honor, and she immediately became one of Vivaldi's favorites.

The story is told by Anna Maria, much later in life, as she reads through the letters she wrote to her mother. But the story is not just about music. It's about a girl trying to find out who she is and where she fits in the world she was placed in. Not only do we get a chance to understand a cloistered life, but we get a taste of world of Venice in the early 1700's. Because of Vivaldi's reputation as a composer and musician, the girls of the coro were given a chance to sneak out of the Pieta into the masquerades of the Venice society.

It's a beautifully written tale, although it was less about Vivaldi than I originally thought it would be. Anna Maria was indeed a real person and a figlia di coro (daughter of the choir). Her tale is as heartbreaking as it is heart warming. It is a tale of love, friendship, and talent. And it well worth reading!!!

Rating : 4.5/5

Kailana Says:

After reading Stephanie's review of this book, I decided I wanted to give it a try. It sounded interesting and I had not heard of it before, plus it was about a topic of history that I had not really read anything about before.

As Stephanie says, the story is told by Anna Maria when she is in her fourties and looking back on her life. According to the historical note, Anna Maria really did exist, but little to nothing is known about her outside of a few details and that she was an accomplished violinist for her time. This meant that most of her story was made up to fit a female living a life similar to hers. Quick brings in characters that really lived during this time, though, and uses real facts about people like Vivaldi.

While called Vivaldi's Virgins, the book is really Anna Maria's story. The other women come into play, and she talks about Vivaldi, but she is the focus. She is in an orphanage of sorts, and she is desperate to find out who her parents are through the course of this novel. This causes her more troubles than good, though. It begins to consume her and almost means the end of her music career on more than one occassion.

Anna Maria might not be a queen, and she was not even that much of a troublemaker when you really think about it, but she is an interesting character to read about and learn about, and it is interesting to see Vivaldi through the eyes of one of his students. This is a very worthwhile read!


  1. This does sound interesting! I've added it to my list.

  2. Yes, this book sounds interesting to me as well. I hope to be able to give it a read!

  3. I would like to read this one. Thanks for the review!

  4. This sounds very interesting, good review.

  5. I really want to read this one!! I just came across this blog for the first time, and as someone who loves historical fiction, I am excited to read some of the other entries!

  6. aaah...! very cool. thanks for the review.

  7. Hello from the author of VIVALDI'S VIRGINS! I appreciate the lovely reviews and all your kind and thoughtful comments--and was wondering whether you would like to do an author interview and/or let me guest-blog sometime. I'm putting the finishing touches on a new historical novel, set in early 14th century Bologna, which will be published by Harper in fall 2009. I'd love to share some of my stories about the process of researching and writing these stories--and to invite your readers to visit my web site:
    and join my friends at

  8. Oh, I must read "Vivaldi's Virgins." The writing is beautiful.