Originally Posted on Suite 101 by Mari Nicholson
The much talked about novel, Immortali, by UK writer Anne Lewington offers a crash course in the life of Renaissance Italy wrapped up in an engrossing and entertaining tale of a group of travelling players in the tradition of the Commedia dell’Arte.
Having had a long love affair with all things to do with Renaissance Italy for as long as I can remember I found it difficult to put the book down. Apart from the great story, there is so much knowledge imparted in an easily absorbed way, that the book can be read on many levels. For anyone doing Renaissance studies I feel this would be a great background book to have on hand as Lewington’s research cannot be faulted yet the research never overpowers the story and the period is illuminated by the writer’s own voice.
Renaissance Tuscany and Venice, Settings for the Novel
Immortali is set in 16th century Tuscany and Venice and the story centres round the travelling players of the Commedia dell’Arte. The tale is told through events which befall the young Giulia Olivieri who falls for the company’s charismatic Arlecchino, in a plot that brims with sex, heresy, murder and intrigue. It is written in a style that reflects a romantic comedy but it has a sub-plot that also addresses contempory issues, such as the spiritual and philosophical themes that were prevalent at the time..
Impossible to single out a favourite parts of the book as I found the vivid insight into Renaissance life so intoxicating that I was swept along with the travelling players as they journeyed through areas of Italy still familiar to us. So much of the architecture and narrow lanes and streets of Tuscany remain medieval. that even today one can marvel at how Giulia, a young girl from a privileged background, survived life on the road with the acting troupe.
The Commedia dell’Arte
The Commedia dell’Arte was part of the Italian scene during the middle of the sixteenth century, when the Renaissance was at its height, and was active during a time of great creativity. It is perhaps not surprising that it was in Tuscany that the travelling players flourished because in that place of immense wealth and the growing influence of powerful men, their performances challenged the audience with tales of intrigue, jealousy and romance and, something quite new to that society, an awareness of the growing tension between servant and master: a case of art reflecting life.
The Mona Lisa and the Cover of Immortali
Lewington is also responsible for the intriguing cover, a re-working of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and there is a fascinating account of how this came about on her website. It is no surprise to learn that she is a former graduate of the St. Martins School of Art in London, that she had her own studio producing paintings to commission and that she founded a centre for the arts in her local area.
Read more about Anne Lewington https://www.annelewington.co.uk/about.htm
Buy the book online – click here
Immortali is available from all good bookshops (in the UK Waterstones and WH Smith) and is online at Amazon.co.uk
IMMORTALI – Indepenpress 2011
Screen Shot Below taken from New York Times – What You’re Reading This Summer