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The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, Carey Wallace

2010/10/15

This short novel, just over two hundred pages, chronicles the life of a young Italian woman who is slowly suffering the loss of sight. The story opens with Carolina Fantoni confessing to her mother, father, and fiance that she is going blind. Oddly enough, none of them believe her, choosing to think that she is using a figure of speech to describe her feelings about her upcoming wedding, or casting it off as a joke. Only her friend, neighbor, and local scandalous inventor Turri believes her. The story then flashes backwards to Turri and Carolina’s first meeting at a ball, when he was sixteen and hiding from girls, and she was six and tired of dancing. As Carolina grows up, her parents are wary of her friendship with Turri, who because of his general undesirability as a husband is married off to the already-scandal laden daughter of a wealthy family. Carolina herself manages to attract and marry one of the most popular and beloved young men of the town, Pietro. Not longer after her marriage, the disease begins to progress rapidly, and Carolina becomes completely blind.

The writing in this book is very pretty, with a quaint, old-fashioned tint. The reader has Carolina’s perspective, so things are described according to smell and feel, tactile descriptions instead of visual ones. I found the book to be a pleasant, quick read, but did not find the characters to be particularly engaging. I felt strangely indifferent to Carolina as a protagonist, nor did I feel that the relationships she had with other characters to be very authentic. So although the writing style and description are very well done, the characters and plot are not necessarily emotionally engaging.

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