While Anna and Vivaldi are both well-drawn, I have to admit my favorite character was Chiara, a young singer who is jealous of Anna and immediately upon meeting her is determined to put her in her place. Chiara is an excellent villainess full of spiteful language and evil schemes to make Anna’s life miserable. She is perfectly bitchy without going overboard or being unbelievable. I also thought Anna’s mother was well-depicted and added to Anna’s character development by how she abandoned her family while Anna was still young, leaving Anna with some insecurities and a perpetual longing to heal her relationship with her mother, a situation that Vivaldi’s attention helps to soothe for Anna.
I have only read one other book about the life of an opera singer, Willa Cather’s wonderful The Song of the Lark, and I found Kelly’s novel could easily hold a place beside it. Vivaldi’s Muse is an example of what good historical fiction should be. It seeks to be realistic and true to the past and characters. Kelly’s broad brush strokes bring the people and era to life without ever boring the reader with too much detail. I hope Kelly continues to introduce us to the history of great music through her books. This reader, at least, wants to explore that great music after having read this novel.
For more information about Vivaldi’s Muse and Sarah Bruce Kelly, visit www.BelCantoPress.com.