Venice was always known as a city of splendor. Lavish parties were held for politicians and the nobles, complete with feasts beyond imagination. Homes were crusted in riches and gold, and filled with majestic paintings painstakingly created by masterful artists. Striking architectural domes and buildings made Venice the most beautiful of all Italy. And even more, the city was full of canals that crisscrossed like patchwork and gondolas that smoothly crossed the water. Vaulting bridges gracefully arched their backs and joined together to create the only metropolis on the water, Venice. For many people, it was the place to be, to grow up, and to live a happy life. But for Donata Mocenigo, the main character of Donna Jo Napoli’s Daughter of Venice, it was not enough.
Having lived a flourishing life as the daughter of one of the most prominent figures in Venice, Donata was the envy of other girls. With her fine, silk clothing, large palazzo on the Grand Canal, a loving twin sister, and clear, bright future, she should have been pleased. Yet in 1592, girls of her rank received no schooling and hardly ever departed from the palazzo. Feeling caught and caged, Donata yearned for something more than just the typical life of marriage and motherhood. She searched for something that would feed her active mind and give her the chance for adventure. But she could not sit in for her brothers’ tutoring lessons, learn how to read or write, or explore. After all, only boys were allowed to do that.
Disguising herself as a young man, Donata entered the world of Venice outside her window truly for the first time. She wandered about, feeling every rough brick, watching every laborer, and gasping at every sight. And then she accidentally stumbled into Noe, a young Jewish man who ran an insignificant newspaper, and had the saddest eyes and a deeper story to tell. Determined to make the most of her experience before she was to be married off or sent to the convent, Donata boldly agreed to work for Noe and learn of a poor man’s life. And for the first time, at his workplace, she was free.
But when Donata’s merchant father made a shocking announcement, Donata realized how close her clandestine venturing was to end. She recognized that she would never truly taste Venice’s fresh air unless in hiding, and that hiding would soon be erased as an option, Donata was suddenly left in a position where she needed to choose between love and loyalty to her family, and her own heart’s freedom. What started as a fourteen year old’s mischievous secret became more than just exploring and seeing everything she’d never had the chance to. It was a battle for her own rights, her hopes, and her opaque future. But at what price would one pay for that?
Napoli’s novel told the story of the biggest fight for identity and one about believing. In an old, Italian society with set rules, one girl challenged the way of life. One girl persistently wished to be someone she was held back from being. One girl yearned to search for a way to be different. And someday, one girl would have to achieve it.
Kate Tsui is freshman attending Darien High School. She enjoys reading and is always looking forward to new book recommendations from friends. She likes to travel, paint, and play the piano.