What Casanova Told Me Hardcover – Sep 7 2004
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With a few more shopping sprees and cleft chins, What Casanova Told Me could almost be classified as academic, or literary, chick-lit. In her first novel since 1993's The Wives of Bath (made into the 2001 motion picture Lost and Delirious), Susan Swan delves into the life of the 18th century's most notorious womanizer while following the parallel adventure of a contemporary protagonist, Luce Adams. The story begins with Luce travelling through Europe with the lover of her recently deceased mother. The purposes of the trip are two-fold: to pay tribute to Adams's lecturer mom and to deliver some Casanova-penned letters, discovered in the family cottage, to the Venetian Library. As the journey progresses Luce reads the letters and discovers an affair between the infamous rake and her distant relation Asked For Adams, a cousin of former president John Adams. The parallels between Luce, just beginning to come into her own, and Asked For are hard to miss, but the two-centuries-old love affair--told through the letters as well as Asked For's journals--is alive in a way that the novel's modern relationships aren't. Nevertheless, What Casanova Told Me is a wise book, with some important lessons to impart on mother-daughter bonds, the value of travel, and the nature of desire. As Swan, by way of Casanova, says, "Our longings provide us with the text of our lives and lead us to the faiths we need to enact our destinies. And our paradox is this: the true art is not to satisfy our longings, but to learn how to cherish them." --Shawn Conner
From Publishers Weekly
The mystery of Casanova's last great love lies at the center of Swan's alluring novel (after The Wives of Bath). In the present, Luce Adams, a young archivist, and Lee, the woman who was her late mother's lover, are uneasy travel companions on their way to Crete to host a memorial service for Kitty Adams, a flamboyant scholar famous for her controversial work on ancient goddess cults. On the way, Luce must deliver important family documents to a library in Venice: the diary of ancestor Asked For Adams, the spirited and independent daughter of a cousin of President John Adams; another document that appears to be written in Arabic; and letters in Casanova's hand. The library really wants the letters, while Luce becomes fascinated with Asked For's diary. Asked For disappeared while in Venice with her father in 1797; her diary reveals that she left with the aging Casanova and traveled with him throughout the Mediterranean on much the same route that Luce herself is taking. The mystery of Asked For's fate—as well as that of Luce's mother—unfolds through the alternating perspectives of past and present. Though the many parallels between Asked For and Luce strain credibility, their stories weave together well and Asked For, in particular, has a bright, engaging voice.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I don't know what I expected from this book, but what that was is not what I got. I immediately noticed that the book was originally published in 2005 and this worried me a little. Then I noticed that several Canadian newspapers rated it rather highly, so I curled up on the sofa with cup of tea at hand and read...and read.
I was fortunate that it was a week end as I did not want to put the book down. I wouldn't call it an edge-of-your-seat-page-turner, but my interest in the protagonist - Luce and her ancestor - Asked For (yes, that is her name) parallel lives in Venice and Greece never waned. Armed with her ancestor's journal Luce reluctantly navigates through the Mediterranean with her late mother's partner. Asked For's writings serve Luce as both a therapeutic tool to cope with her mother's death, and and a means of encouragement in finding a partner worthy of her love.
Swan elegantly intertwines Luce's and Asked For's stories in ways that render even the blustering Lee Pronski likable. For his part, Casanova is quite simply a conduit for all of these women to realise their potential and who they really are.
As it turns out, I am quite pleased to have a read a 7 year old book that I had never heard of.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As she travels, she reads the diary of Asked For Adams. The ancestor that traveled with Cassaova on his journey to Constantinople in 1797. This part of the story was interesting, but still slow. And the story-line of Luce and Lee was strained.
Overall, this book had great potential, but I just couldn't get into it. From beginning to end, there was no real high point. I trudged on thinking someting exciting had to happen, but nothing. Not something I recommend, save your money.