Isobel Cuddigan reviews the potentially divisive The Girl of His Dreams.
The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon. I know what you’re thinking when you see the title. Predictable, romantic novel, with happy ever after ending? Thankfully all these presumptions could not be more wrong if any of us tried. The eerie blue cover also disregarded any idea I had of a happy story. This is the 17th of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series of detective novels, set in Venice, which began in 1992.
I must admit I was not too enthusiastic about this book before I started. It was part of a set of six or seven books I got off my mother last year for Christmas but put off because to be brutally honest they look downright boring.
Part of my enjoyment of reading is going to the book store and walking around the store with my hands full of more books than I know I can afford, (people do give me strange looks at this point), and then sitting down on the floor (this is normally when the strange looks turn to staring!) and going through them trying to find that one special book.
So when my mother presented me with this present I was dubious, also partly because she has no interest in reading at all so I had no idea what she had chosen!
The book is both a portrayal of the private family life of Brunetti and his life as a detective in Venice. The way the two overlap is effortless and adds greatly to the story. We see the change in Brunetti as a family man and then as the detective trying to work diligently. One of the main things that appealed to me was the strong sense of place and belonging in the book.
The concern the natives of Venice held for their city was warming and their dislike of the tourists was very well done. A lot of people’s livelihoods depended on these tourists but they also saw them as a nuisance.
There is a central role in the novel with it both beginning and ending in funerals. At the start we meet Antonin Scallon, a priest and childhood friend of Brunetti’s brother. He then asks Brunetti to look into the life of Leondardi Mutti a leader of a cult, who he believes is fleecing people for money.
The detective is wary of both characters but the sub plot proves vital to the story’s success, as without it I do not believe that the main plot involving the mystery of the body of the child found floating in the water, was strong enough to stand on its own and be successful.
The discovery of the little girl’s body is even more shocking because no one has reported a child missing. It seems as if no one cares. As Brunetti searches for answers, we see that not all stories, even those in books, have happy endings.
To be honest my initial thoughts about this book were accurate. It is ok. Not awful but nothing special. Would I give it to a friend and suggest they read it? Most definitely not. It is an easy, quick read so if you need something to pass the time this will do. It would also do as fuel for the fire.