Hmmm. So this book by Deborah Weisgall is one I choose randomly off the "New Arrivals" shelf at our local library. I was intrigued because the inside flap promised to present two stunning stories: one about George Eliot and one about a contemporary (fictional) sculptor.
The stories are told in alternating chapters. (Actually, that seemed rather random. I wasn't sure when to expect a change from one story back to the other.) For awhile the reader will be with Marian Evans and her new husband in Venice, and then we'll be with Caroline and her husband in Venice. But then it gets tricky. With all of the shifts in stories, settings, characters, and time, I got really lost. I get frustrated with novels in which I have to say, "Huh? Where am I? Who is this? Where are they?" on a regular basis.
I very much enjoyed the story of Marian Evans. I don't really know anything about her except for whatever brief introduction I would have had in college and high school. Reading this fictionalized account of her makes me want to read one of the biographies upon which this is based.
And to a lesser degree, I enjoyed the story of Caroline and her search for self through her sculpture and her loves. This storyline seemed too familiar: the wife begins searching for her true identity after years of marriage, discovers herself in art, becomes fabulously successful, etc.
But the two stories linked together? I didn't get it. Too much of a stretch for me. Not enough connections to make the stories united in one novel. I get that the themes of identity, the price of happiness, and personal fulfillment are integral to both stories; however, I'd rather have read just the smooth-flowing story about Marian Evans without the contemporary story stuck in here and there.