The Venetian's Wife: A Strangely Sensual Tale of a Renaissance Explorer, a Computer, and a Metamorphosis

Nick Bantock, Author
Nick Bantock, Author Chronicle Books $22.95 (132p) ISBN 978-0-8118-1140-8
Reviewed on: 07/29/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
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The subtitle of this oversized, lavishly illustrated volume confirms that we are once again in the kind of quasi-mythical kingdom that provided the setting for writer and illustrator Bantok's bestselling Griffin and Sabine series. Phrased thusly: ""A Strangely Sensual Tale of a Renaissance Explorer, a Computer, and a Metamorphosis,'' the subtitle also suggests a major difference in this work: the traditional epistolary tools (letters and postcards) that were the vehicles of communication in the trilogy are here replaced by e-mail messages exchanged by the two protagonists. Fans of the trilogy may not be disappointed that Bantok repeats himself in another respect, however. The situation that bridges time and place is nearly identical to that of the previous books; that is, one of the protagonists is contacted by the other, whom she does not know, but who seems to be able to read her mind. In this case, San Francisco art conservator Sara Wolfe, who is fascinated by a drawing of the Indian god Shiva hanging on the walls of the museum where she works, receives an e-mail message from one N. Conti, who somehow is aware of her obsession and offers her a job traveling around the world assembling Indian art for his collection. The narrative proceeds via these e-mail messages and through the protagonists' entries into their computer journals. In this story, however, Sara and Conti are not fated to be lovers. The latter, in fact, is the ghost of a real-life figure, wealthy Renaissance merchant and indefatigable traveler Niccolo Dei Conti, who died in 1469 and needs Sara's help in order to be reunited with his wife, Yasod, in the afterlife. And Sara, with Conti's help, discovers her own destined mate, a colleague called Marco (surely Bantok's humorous reference to another fabled traveler). The mysteries around which the plot hinge--Conti's identity and his ultimate purpose in reassembling his collection--are suspensefully maintained, augmented by Bantok's intensely colorful and often sensual illustrations. If Bantok has essentially chosen to repeat his winning formula, he has again produced another handsome volume that readers can enjoy. Author tour. (Oct.)
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