Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner


Renaissance is a word with hope infused in every letter.

Since she was a child, Meg has dreamed of taking a promised trip to Florence, Italy, and being able to finally step into the place captured in a picture at her grandmother’s house. But after her grandmother passes away and it falls to her less-than-reliable father to take her instead, Meg’s long-anticipated travel plans seem permanently on hold.

When her dad finally tells Meg to book the trip, she prays that the experience will heal the fissures left on her life by her parents’ divorce. But when Meg arrives in Florence, her father is nowhere to be found, leaving aspiring memoir-writer Sophia Borelli to introduce Meg to the rich beauty of the ancient city. Sofia claims to be one of the last surviving members of the Medici family and that a long-ago Medici princess, Nora Orsini, communicates with her from within the great masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.

When Sophia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives will be indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissance isn’t just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is isn’t what has to be?

The part of this book that most resonated with me is Meg’s obsession with place.  I truly believe that there is a spiritual connection between people and a place they have dreamt about or visited. I believe that a place or a time can feel like home to you even if it is far from where you live and grew up.  I believe in attachment. 

Readers of this blog know that my lifelong passion is Vienna. I felt rather like Meg as I planned and plotted my first trip there. Knowing, as Meg does, that I couldn’t just up and go; but that every tenet of it would have to be perfect in order to fully realize my dream.  As I love Vienna ( more so now than I ever thought I could before I spent time there), so Meg is enticed by Florence. Every rooftop, the colourful esplanades and tiles, the centuries of beautiful art.  Indeed, Meg seems to suffer from a bit of the Florentine Stendhal Syndrome before she even steps off the plane.

While Meg is planning and hoping for a trip to Florence, Florence and its long history of Medici art is infusing her “real” world.  Meg works for a Travel publisher and stumbles upon a proposed manuscript which links an eccentric woman who believes herself to be the last remaining (and highly unlikely Medici) to a young woman named Nora who has left fragmented words and thoughts behind her even though she is long dead.  Thus, we are treated to three different perspectives, three completely different engaging experiences with Florence as well steer through Meissner’s path of faith, art and beauty.

The story is peppered with situations so problematic and real that the elaborate tapestry painted by the age-old city of light and art is stripped back to remind us of the world far beyond Meg’s constructed fairytale.  There are relationship failings, age-old arguments, lack of forgiveness and testings of faith. 

But, amidst this, is a genuine passion for place and time and scope and space.  This is the part of the story with which I most connected---even as I was slightly distracted by the somewhat disjointed, jarring and multiple narratives, likewise the seeming dislikability of our heroine Meg.  I appreciate and understand her propensity to fall for the beauty of a city: at first imagined and then realized.  Seeing Florence through Meg’s eyes--- through a woman so fixated on her passion becoming manifest --- well, I can buy into that.

The religious facets of the novel are rather tame and more thematic then blatantly applied in usual Christian fiction.  I find that most of Meissner’s heroines tend to bleed into each other… so if you are familiar with her previous stories marrying history with present--- then this will not be a surprise to you. It is, however, competently written and boasts a surety of place and sense and spirit. 

I received this book care of the WaterBrook/Multnomah Blogging for Books Program


Rissi said...

I've heard of this one.

Rissi said...
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