Daughter of Venice - Donna Jo Napoli

cover of Daughter Of Venice








Daughter Of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli -- this one had some real life inspiration too. Napoli says the character of Donata was inspired by the real life story of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, a female scholar, musician and artist who in 1678 became the very first woman ever to earn a university degree, hers being a doctoral degree in Philosophy from the University of Padua, Italy. 



Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia


In Daughter of Venice, Donata's older sister is pretty much the shoe-in for being the one to be married off with the big ol' dowry, so Donata and her twin sister anxiously await to see what fates their father has in store for them. Since Donata and her sister Laura are twins, it gives the girls an alternative to a convent, sort of -- one may be chosen to stay in the family home and be the "maiden aunt" / free-of-charge nanny to any of her brother's future children. But only one. Everyone else, off to the convent with ye... unless they were so bold to run off and become courtesans. But from what I've read, that life wasn't as glamorous as it sounded either. Donata just knows the convent isn't for her. She loves learning but feels like she's missing out on most of the world out there because her father is reluctant to give his daughters educations past what they need to function within their gender roles. Donata begs and eventually gains her father's permission to attend the tutoring sessions of her brothers during the afternoons, while in the mornings she sneaks off into town dressed as a fisherman boy.


Albrecht Durer - Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman
"Maritar o Monacar" whispered Laura - marry or enter a convent -
an old Venetian motto
. " ~~ Daughter of Venice


Her first unchaperoned excursion ends up in her being harassed by street bullies, where in her escape she runs into the Jewish Ghetto. There she meets a young man by the name of Noe who cleans her up. She asks for a hat to disguise herself more so she can get back to her house without another fight (Noe doesn't realize she's a girl) so he gives her what he has on hand, a yarmulke and a pair of shoes, which when she says she'd like to repay him, he tells her he has a job for her but it'll take a month to pay off the debt (at first read, I thought Good Lord! What lousy job does he have in mind?! but it makes sense later when he explains). So we then see Donata (who finds herself taking a job in the Jewish Ghetto, and finds that she is a girl impersonating a boy impersonating a girl in this whole clusterfuddle she gets into to pay off a debt without her parents knowing). Weird, for some reason writing that just made me think of the movie Can't Buy Me Love (the original one with Patrick Dempsey and the girl no one can remember). Donata spends the month learning about how the non-nobles live and finds herself falling for Noe ... what else would you expect from a teenage girl isolated from the rest of the world who meets her first college age boy? :-)


While this book wasn't uber riveting, it was a fun and interesting read with a ton of history for one to take in, and presented in a lively way! Lots of story elements to have fun with here... teenager fighting parents she finds slightly overbearing, secret disguises, first loves, battling bullies, finding new friends in the most unexpected places... should be a good bit of fun for YA readers or just fans of YA novels ... sorry, no zombies :-(