The Girl in the Glass, by Susan Meissner, Book Review
Paper back edition published by WaterBrook Press in 2012. Sent to me by the publicist for review.
I had to read this book twice to fully appreciate it. But, to be fair to myself, the first time I read it was right before our move and I was more than a little distracted. The second reading was slower and allowed me to fully appreciate how skillfully crafted the book is.
This is the interwoven stories of three women, two in the present and one from the late 1500s. Two live in Florence, Italy and one lives in southern California. All three experienced the loss of a close family member as a child and the resulting change in their lives caused by that loss. It is by no means a sad or maudlin book instead, hopeful and uplifting.
Meg, living in southern California, working in travel book publishing, has always been promised a trip to Florence with her father. Through her work she knows of two authors living in Florence. She finally makes the trip but ends up with the neighbor of the two authors, Sophia. Sophia is a tour guide in Florence and enjoys showing off the city that she loves. She is writing a memoir based on her ancestry as a Medici and the message she ‘hears’ from the paintings and possessions of a long dead Medici princess, Nora Orsini.
The story of the three is woven together and gently unfolds using diary entries from Nora, Sophia’s memoir chapters written and given to Meg to evaluate for possible publishing and a first person account from Meg. Each chapter does lead well in to the next and there is enough suspense that the reader might want to stay up all night to finish it. Since Sophia is a tour guide, Florence is well described with historical details and facts. Ms. Meissner certainly has traveled to Florence (perhaps several times at different times of the year) and done her research. I would fault her in her writing about food and coffee. The food described was food that tourists would eat and remember. Blood oranges and figs are usually not in the same season. Italians serve what is in season. Perhaps a winter food memory has been combined with an early fall one in the spring of the year. It is the rare Italian household that would make a carafe of coffee as Sophia has left for Meg on her first morning in Florence. Coffee is made, 1 or maybe 2 cups at a time, either using a small espresso pot or a capsule type of machine. Only Americans, guest houses and hotels have coffee makers that would make a carafe. And I know of no Italian who would drink a cappuccino after 10 or 11 in the morning and certainly not after dinner as one of the Florence author’s does. But these are very minor points.
Overall the book is a very good read and I would recommend it. (Jules, Grace, whoever wants to read it next, let me know so I can pass it on) An interesting story set in location that many of us know and love or dream of visiting some day. As a very wise woman said to me just today, “I enjoy reading. You take many trips when you read”. So a good book for a trip to the Florence of the Medici’s and the Florence of today.