Author: Richard Skinner, 2014.
Genre: Historical/Period Fiction. Death. Magical Realism.
Other Details: Paperback. 320 pages.
Venice, 1511. In the convent of Sant' Alvise, a young novice, Oliva, is about to take the veil and become a bride of Christ. When her world is shaken - first, literally, by an earthquake, and then, spiritually, by forces that threaten to change the convent for ever - she begins to question her faith and her future. When she agrees to sit for Signor Avílo, the renowned portrait painter with a sky-blue smock and a provocative manner, he brings with him a diabolical object: a mirror. And reflections can be dangerous.
Erik Satie - composer, dandy, eccentric - is dead. Told he must select a single memory to take with him into the afterlife, he finds himself in limbo with a community of the deceased, listening to ragtime, and looking back at his fifty-nine years on earth for its most precious moments. Evenings of absinthe at the Chat Noir? Friendships with his great contemporaries, Debussy and Ravel, Duchamp and Man Ray? Nights with Biqui, the trapeze artist, love of his life? And what of his great musical triumphs and disasters? His Gymnopédies, his Pieces in the Form of a Pear? How will he choose his own legacy before silent whiteness descends? - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
I found these two novellas quite interesting reading as they dealt with themes linked to faith and religion, death and the meaning of life. Serious subjects and yet written in a very accessible fashion, especially the second novella titled The Velvet Gentleman.
The first reminded me of Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts as it explored the life of a young woman in a convent in 16th Century Venice at the point when restrictions were increasingly placed upon the nuns. There was an interesting twist in the tale.
The second novella was set in a place between life and death and was excellent as it explored the life of the composer Erik Satie in a fictional autobiography as he sought to find a memory to take into the afterlife. There were plenty of references to modern artists, music and various movements so was a bit of a treat for me.