Nick Bantock is best known for his epistolary Griffin & Sabine series, beginning with Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (that book has remained on my all-time favorites list since I first read it in high school, along with all its sequels). By comparison, The Venetian’s Wife is less immersive—there are no physical letters to remove from envelopes in this novel, nor the same urgency in the correspondence itself. This is because the communication in The Venetian’s Wife is confined to e-mail and digital diary entries rather than physical mail, and the story focuses primarily on one character, Sara. Conti, her conversational partner, is treated more as a catalyst for Sara’s adventures and personal development than an equal participant in the action.
That said, the book has some beautiful description, illustration, and atmosphere, knitting together Hindu mythology, Renaissance art history, magical realism, eternal love, sensuality, and a literal “ghost in the wires.” Sara may not be the most interesting or relatable character—her diary entries read a little stiff and forced—but she has moments of endearing humanity (for example, she falls for her coworker Marco after discovering that he surreptitiously brings milk to a stray cat that frequents the museum).
Conti insists throughout the book that Sara’s participation in the culmination of events is necessary. I was ultimately left wondering why; it’s not clearly explained. To be fair, Bantock’s books often leave questions unanswered. Perhaps readers are meant to draw their own conclusions.
The Venetian's Wife by Nick Bantock
Genres: Fiction, Graphic
Sara, a withdrawn and discontent art conservator, finds herself captivated by a drawing of a dancing Shiva in the museum gallery where she works. Noting her interest, the reclusive billionaire Mr. Conti e-mails her with a job offer: to help him reassemble a collection of artifacts originally belonging to a Renaissance explorer, among them the original Shiva depicted in the drawing Sara loves. She accepts, and finds herself caught up in the culmination of events that began in the 14th century, along the way undergoing a personal awakening of her own.