Skip to main content

The Lost Diary of Venice

Review

The Lost Diary of Venice

THE LOST DIARY OF VENICE is a graceful and insightful novel that explores life and love in the dual timelines of Renaissance Venice and contemporary Connecticut.

The book pivots on an old family diary, or manuscript, discovered from 1500s Venice. The love story and history it contains is not limited to the past, as Rose Newlin and William Lomazzo share a passion that echoes back through the ages to Giovanni Lomazzo and Chiara. Their love is challenged by their stations, their limitations, and the coming war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire. The history is laced throughout, true enough to give the novel good structure but not so intrusive to derail the story.

"...a graceful and insightful novel... I love historical fiction, and author Margaux DeRoux does a wonderful job of balancing the history and the story."

The document is a palimpsest --- written once, erased and rewritten, but with enough of the original that both can still be read. It is part art treatise and part diary, and it sets the characters in motion. Rose is the simple, shy book restorer. William is the electrifying young man who owns the book, walks into her store and changes her life. Through the diary, we travel to the 1500s and meet Giovanni, the artist, and Chiara, the beautiful courtesan he is commissioned to paint and destined to love.

While Giovanni and Chiara’s love comes across as natural and appropriate, I found it difficult to say the same about Rose and William. For whatever reason, I could not invest in their future together. William is charming and vulnerable, but never once was I left with the impression that he and Rose would be a couple. Also, Sebastiano Venier, Joan and Lucas are all important characters who I felt I never got to know.

However, Rose, William and Corvino are well-developed and pungent in their appearances. Chiara’s perfume wafts from the page. Giovanni’s paints, sketches and spectacles sit clearly on a table in my mind’s eye. Ushered into Aurelio’s workshop, I am struck by the smells, the organized clutter and the stench of genius. They are rich and beautifully nurtured. A movie cast could only disappoint because I already have imagined these characters down to the most minute details. 

I love historical fiction, and author Margaux DeRoux does a wonderful job of balancing the history and the story. When she quoted Heraclitus’ “No man steps in the same river twice,” I knew I would enjoy the book. I don’t need an exhaustive explanation of the Battle of Lepanto --- just enough to give context and flavor to the plot. Here, DeRoux superbly mixes authentic elements with her own choices and characters. I even found myself looking up individuals and events to determine which were real and which were fictional.

The result is a tale that puts you in the moment, while never wandering too far from Giovanni’s squinting or Chiara’s golden tresses. This is the key strength of this delightful book, which I highly recommend. Well done!

Reviewed by John Vena on June 25, 2020

The Lost Diary of Venice
by Margaux DeRoux

  • Publication Date: June 9, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 1984819488
  • ISBN-13: 9781984819482