The Floating Book

Although The Floating Book is filled with vivid characters, the novel’s real protagonist is Venice itself. Author Michelle Lovric, who spends much of her time in a palazzo on the Grand Canal, knows the city and its history well. Her novel is set at a critical time in the past, when the introduction of the printing press was seen as a threat to the church and the values it professed.

However, the church’s opposition is not the only obstacle to the success of Wendolin von Speyer, a German-born printer and, like many of the other characters in this book, an actual historical figure. Von Speyer also has to outsell his competitors and outwit malicious gossips. Fortunately, he has the aid of his new wife, Lussieta, who is as loyal as she is lovely. Lussieta even supports her husband when by publishing the erotic poems of the Roman writer Catullus, he makes a dangerous enemy, the fanatical Fra Filippo. Only when Wendolin refuses to get rid of a cabinet that Lussieta is certain carries bad luck with it is their marriage ever in serious danger.

By contrast, most of the other characters in The Floating Book find, like Catullus, that love is rarely reciprocated. Thus the prostitute Sosia Simeon betrays her kindly husband and torments the young editor who adores her, while she, in turn, is spurned by the scribe Felice Feliciano, who secretly desires the young editor. Though these frustrated lovers may forget to notice the beauty all around them, clearly Lovric does not. Her love for Venice is evident throughout The Floating Book. Surely it is that passion which enabled her to succeed so well in recreating a magnificent past.