Thursday, February 14, 2008

Book Buddies: In Lucia's Eyes by Arthur Japin (2005, 231 pgs.)

I was a little reluctant to read this choice for Book Buddies this month, it being about the life of a courtesan in eighteenth-century Amsterdam. By the world's standards, I would be considered a prude, and I was ready to close the book in the instance of anything explicit or pornographic, but the author does a pretty good job of giving the reader a look into the realm of prostitution of the time (and of Lucia's other experiences) without being too indulgent about the details. But these thoughts of mine are a bit misleading--the story is not so much about her life as a courtesan, but about the repercussions of her adolescent relationship with Giacomo, who she falls in love with and becomes engaged to be married. While he is away for a time, she contracts smallpox, and her face is horribly disfigured. She knows that Giacomo will not be able to fulfill his ambitions with a scarred woman at his side, and she leaves her home without him knowing the real reason why she has left him. The story is about who each of them becomes as they live life without one another--Giacomo emerges as none other than Casanova-the legendary womanizer, while Lucia travels, educates herself, has struggles, and ends up as a successful courtesan. They meet again much later in life, but because she wears a veil to cover her face, he has no idea who she is. The main theme of the books surrounds a conflict between emotion and reason--deep stuff that I think went over my head. The discussion is still ongoing at Book Buddies, so wiser participants may be able to give me more insight. The novel was based on Japin's research from the memoirs of Casanova, and his mention of his first love, Lucia, who abandoned him and turned up later as a prostitute in an Amsterdam brothel.
This novel didn't wow me, but it didn't bore me, either. I liked his sensitive, contemplative writing, and I actually like it when things are a bit over my head. I would like to read his first novel, The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, the story of two Ashanti princes, Kwami Poku and Kwasi Boachi, who were taken from today's Ghana and given as gifts to the Dutch king Willem II in 1837.
By the way, isn't this a perfect day to review this book about the "greatest lover of all time?"


  1. I just stumbled across your blog which is so nice! I was especially drawn in by your review of In Lucia's Eyes. I find history fascinating and when paired with fiction, such books suck me right in. I don't know much about Italy during Casanova's time, but I'm always open to knew subjects. I appreciate the heads up on the sexuality level of the books - less is more in my opinion. I'm adding this book and the author's previous book to my reading list and had to say thank-you!

  2. Shelley, this is my first time visiting this blog since you began it. I perused the list at the bottom and it made me think of several things. I recognize a few of the selections as short stories, such as "The Yellow Wallpaper." You say you haven't read it, so I recommend it. I didn't see Frankenstein on the list. I loved that book. I think you have read that, though. The Turn of the Screw?? I had to read that in college. Yikes! Don't waste your time! Interview with the Vampire is yuck! I had a friend in college who thought Aphra Behn was the best thing ever--she read Oroonoko for an assignment. Just out of curiosity, I'd like to see what's so great about it. There are so very many books I would love to read. The frustration is that I don't have time and when I read them, unless I study them intensely, I tend not to remember them. This blog is so much fun! What a great hobby! Happy reading!