Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: The Blind Contessa's New Machine

Author: Carey Wallace
Narrator: Aasne Vigesaa
Format: audio-approx 6 hours, 224 page equivalent
Characters: Carolina Fantoni, Turri, Pietro
Subject: Living with blindness
Setting: 19th century Italian villa
Genre: Fiction
Source: public library audio download

This is a lovely little book with a rather misleading title.  The story is very basic- a young Italian woman, Carolina Fantoni, discovers that she is going blind. At first, no one will accept this fact except her best childhood friend, an eccentric scientist named Turri.  Carolina adjusts to her change in life by retreating to her mind, where she forces herself to remember everything she can, painting detailed pictures in her head.  She also learns to navigate the physical world by memorizing landmarks.  In the meantime she marries Pietro, considered the best catch in her universe by all her contemporaries.  He protects her to point of locking her into the house at night.  By following unnamed "ghosts", Carolina discovers a secret passage out through the basement and begins a series of nocturnal wonderings, sometimes meeting up with Turri. 

She is able to visit her world in her dreams, where she learns to fly above her beloved lake to view life below in all its extravagant colors and shapes.  In spite of her abilities to function, she becomes more and more locked in her mind, until Turri presents her with an early form of typewriter, allowing her to again communicate in written words.  Her relationship with Turri deepens, and leads to an ending I won't reveal so as not to spoil the book.

The strength of this novella is not the story, but the writing.  It is pure poetry.  The imagery is exquisite. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if we are traveling physically with Carolina, or accompanying her in a dream.  It doesn't really matter.  I'm actually glad that I listened to this one, because I was able to close my eyes and visualize Carolina's world through another sense, rather than through my eyes.  It is an enriching experience, and one that is to be treasured for years to come.  I definitely  plan to get a hard copy of this one.  It is one that can be read again and again for the descriptions alone.  A very different, very compelling love story.


  1. I loved this book as well, so rich in setting and characters. Book Bird Dog

  2. That cover reminds me of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

    Wonderful review, Tina. Makes me want to go get the book asap.


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