Novel set mainly in Pisa
Gothic novel set mainly in 1966 Venice
13th September 2021
Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan, gothic novel set mainly in 1966 Venice.
This novel is specifically set in 1966 because great floods happened across Italy and the resulting high waters play a part in the narrative.
It is Autumn in Venice and the city is very much a character in its own right, a rather old trope of a truly smelly, sulphurous, foggy and watery gothic backdrop. It all feels quite monochrome, and, layered over the richly textured descriptions, is the story of Frankie’s immersion into Venetian life as she experiences the ‘weird emptiness’ at this time of year. The author has written a piece for Crime Reads about The Gothic Elegance of Venice in Winter, which offers a great insight into locale.
Frankie (short for Frances) recently misbehaved at the Savoy and the incident is recorded in the annals of publishing history. She worked herself into a frenzy about a negative review of her latest book and, via a circuitous route, now finds herself living in a crumbling palazzo in Venice, owned by her darling friend Jack (also female). It is called the Palace of the Drowned. Here she can lick her wounds and concentrate on finding her way back to writing. But bumps in the attic and visions of people all seem to mess with her reality.
One day, when she is out and about, a young woman bumps into her, claiming her acquaintance. She is called Gilly (with a hard ‘G’ as in guillemot, the bird) and is clearly persuasive about fostering a friendship. Frankie grudgingly allows herself to be swayed and soon they are having coffee together and going to the opera. Gilly is the driver and, over time, her determination could be construed as almost stalker behaviour and Frankie just goes along with it, despite her mounting reservations. Their friendship is a balm to her ingrained loneliness…and yet, something doesn’t feel quite right.
I very much enjoyed the author’s first novel, Tangerine, as it conjured up a vibrant and colourful Tangier. Palace of the Drowned has a brooding elegance combined with a desolate and rather gloomy feel, contrived at times, and yet quite readable. Will it stay with me? The sense of place, yes, the story less so.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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