September 7, 2012 by D. Bennison, Bennison Books
From the opening lines, this beautifully written historical novel effortlessly transports the reader into the very real world of the `forgotten’ 17th century composer, Stradella, and his relationship with the vividly imagined fictional protagonist, Donatella.
In turns moving and exhilarating, sad and joyous, the author moves dexterously from scene to scene: from exquisitely rendered intimate and searching conversations between Stradella and Donatella to the pace and excitement of the final scenes at the Carnevale, leading to a dénouement that is both an ending and a beginning. The novel has no longueurs or loss of pace; its skilfully constructed momentum makes for a compelling read.
Accurately rendered historical details (the novelist’s light touch belies the in-depth research that she must have undertaken) and convincing characterisation and plot development lie at the heart of this fascinating and rewarding novel. And as with any skilled writer and artist, the author provides insights not only into a long-neglected musician and the specific time in which he lived, but also addresses questions that are as relevant today: what it is to be gifted and what it is to be ordinary, and the hopes, disappointments, griefs, yearnings and joys that are the markers of what it is to be human.
This novel would make a great film! I hope the author receives the recognition she deserves for this impressive achievement and I sincerely hope she continues to write.
3-Stars. A House Near Luccoli
November 12, 2012 by Jo Ann Butler, author, rebelpuritan.com
Alessandro Stradella is a flamboyant musician in Baroque Italy. By turns acclaimed for his talent, and outcast for shady dealings and dalliances with highly-placed women, Stradella flees Rome and Venice for Genoa in 1678. There he moves into an apartment in a house near Luccoli Street.
Donatella cares for the house near Luccoli, along with her bedridden, beloved grandmother and overbearing aunt. In the past she has loved unwisely, and is reluctantly settling into spinsterhood when Stradella arrives. Donatella’s musical training is not the only thing which attracts her to the acclaimed composer, and she serves not only as his copyist, but as his muse. Can Donatella become a permanent part of Stradella’s turbulent life?
“A House Near Luccoli,” by Diane Denton, is a lyrical and intriguing historical novel. I very much enjoyed Ms. Denton’s lush descriptions of Genoa, and Donatella’s growing temptation drew me onward. However, I found myself of two minds about Ms. Denton’s style when
complex sentences sent me rereading for clarity, and some conversations left me wondering who was speaking. But don’t let my shortcoming stop you from trying “A House Near Luccoli,” especially if you love a beautifully-told tale of yearning.
November 21, 2012 by Barbara Rodgers, By The Sea
A House Near Luccoli is full of such lovely and lyrical prose which gently transports the reader to 17th century Genoa, Italy. Taking in the author’s wonderful words, one can almost smell the gardens and sachets, taste the food and wine, feel the summer heat, see the musical notes being carefully transcribed, the sunshine glittering on the ocean, and hear the exquisite music. About a year ago we went to a concert, The Passion of the Italian Baroque, at the Amherst Early Music Festival, and heard beautiful performances with various combinations of the viol, violin, violone, recorder, flute, two oboes, cello, and three harpsichords. And a soprano sang along on a couple of pieces. Memories of the sound of that baroque music made reading the story of the colorful composer Alessandro Stradella and the restless Donatella all the more vivid in my mind.
December 7, 2012 by Casee Clow, Literary Inklings
Alessandro Stradella was a legend in his time, a celebrated composer who took Italy in the 17th century by storm; wrestled from fame to infamy, Stradella received accolades and evictions alike, finally coming to Genoa after being sent from Rome, Turin, and Venice. Despite his scandals, his seductive genius for Baroque music and his overwhelming charm reserved for him a place of esteem within the nobility of Genoa. In D.M. Denton’s languid new novel, A House Near Luccoli, the author examines the famed composer’s time in Genoa through the lens of fiction, centering her story on the house near Luccoli Street where Stradella rented an apartment and filling it with her own brand of characters. Among them is the novel’s protagonist, Donatella. Plain and a confirmed spinster, Donatella resides in and tends to the house near Luccoli along with her ailing grandmother and domineering aunt. When Stradella sweeps into the quiet house Donatella becomes enraptured with the world he offers, so much different than the life she planned to live with her bloom fading before even having the chance to fully blossom. After beginning work for Stradella as a copyist, his passionate realm of intrigue and music, artists and royalty, envelops Donatella’s curiosity just as she begins to lose herself to the beguiling and reckless composer. But as her longings war with her own simple reality, she must find strength within to keep from being trampled among Stradella’s many admirers and his own larger-than-life persona.
A House Near Luccoli is as charmingly crafted as Stradella’s compositions, often mirroring their power, beauty, and delicate intricacy. It’s a novel at once intimate and expansive, quickly ushering the reader into the vivid 17th century world of Stradella and exposing the history of a lesser-known genius while enfolding them in a fictitious story of romance, friendship, art, and intrigue. Denton’s narrative is complex and challenging, steeped in a richness that befits the grandeur of the time period. Her use of language and her inventive storytelling captured me from the first page; some passages of dialogue felt more abstractly constructed than others, lending me the enchanting image of an artist’s story being told through an equally artistic medium. I enjoyed the freedom she displayed in writing. Her depiction of Stradella presented an absorbing study of a truly fascinating man, and left my interest piqued to discover more about himself and his music. In Donatella I found a protagonist I was keenly drawn to. She is perhaps a daring choice for a heroine, at times appearing melancholy in her situation at the house in Genoa, but I felt an understanding with Donatella, a timid woman with an artist’s fiery spirit inside, who has somehow managed to lose her life to her own daydreams. Her interests have captivated her while her longings have been left dormant, only to be brought to surprising life by Stradella and all his colorful, vibrant artistry. The relationship forged between the duo, sometimes a friendship, sometimes a romance, sometimes a turbulent bundle of unknown feelings, is one I was loathe to let go of at the book’s final pages.
Additional characters are ever on hand through Denton’s story to create more intrigues and offer new dramatic surprises. It culminated into an ending that held me in rapt attention and made me want to immerse myself in the book all over again. Compelling, stimulating, and studiously researched, A House Near Luccoli is a beautiful representation of the boundlessness of historical fiction, and a story as sumptuous and engaging as the man at its center.
December 29, 2012 by Steven R. Lindhal, author
In keeping with its period, A House Near Luccoli reads more like a symphony than a rock song. It is separated into parts that are like movements of the larger work. The language is not simple, making it the type of book I like to read slowly. There is so much in every phrase and I found I was often flipping back to let the meaning of Denton’s words sink in.
Donatella loves to paint. Her sense of style and perfect hand make her the ideal copyist for Stradella’s work. This is pointed out by Nonna,Donatella’s grandmother, in an interesting scene where Nonna appears to be offering her granddaughter to Stradella for multiple purposes. “‘Come here,’ Nonna pleaded as Donatella could never refuse. ‘Look, signore, at the beauty in her.’
“In addition to his composing Stradella’s duties include performing. He calls on Donatella to sing while he plays and he tutors her for that task in one of the most sensual sections of the novel. “‘Keep your arms up.’ His hands pushed against her diaphragm. ‘Make it a sliding note, higher, higher,’ he dropped them from the inflation of her breasts, ‘with body and voice until you can’t feel any difference,’ to her waist. ‘Reach from your toes!’
“A House Near Luccoli mixes fictional with historical characters. It was fun to use Wikipedia to learn more about Stradella as I read the novel and Youtube to hear performances of his music. I recommend this book for readers who enjoy historical fiction with beautiful language.
4-Stars. A House Near Luccoli
December 29, 2012 by Janet Ashworth, author
January 2013. Highly Recommended by the Historical Novel Society
The remarkable Baroque composer Alessandro Stradella stands at the center of Denton’s bright, sparkling novel A House Near Luccoli. Unmarried, mid-thirties Genoan woman Donatella encounters the volatile, slightly disreputable genius and at first is appalled by his manners and eccentric ways, but she and others are also gradually taken by his undeniable charm.
Denton is an unapologetically enthusiastic writer (exclamation points abound), imbuing even her minor secondary characters with three-dimensional life. Her research into all aspects of the period is thorough but not wooden; this is foremost a book of characters and character-study, ultimately in many ways a book about how friendships form. Stradella’s life came to a very abrupt end, and this book does too, a bit – but it’s all immensely enjoyable just the same. Highly recommended.
March 5, 2013 by Marina Julia Neary, author
Imagine a nerdy cat lady and a rakish, self-destructive rock star. Now throw this scenario back to 17th century Genoa, and you get “A House Near Luccoli”. Music history is filled with stories of composers who were dismissed by their contemporaries only to be rediscovered deified decades, sometimes centuries later. Alessandro Stradella’s story is the opposite. He was quite an emblem in his day and had since faded into relative obscurity. My mother is a classical musician, and when I asked her about Stradella’s status in the musical pantheon,
she looked puzzled. “He doesn’t get played much these days”, she said. For this very reason I applaud the author, DM Denton for pulling this composer from obscurity. His personal life makes for a great plot for a picaresque novel. And yet, “A House Near Luccoli” is not a traditional picaresque. It’s a psychologically authentic study of ambition, polarization of gender roles in a Catholic country, where men, especially those endowed with musical talent, were excused from the conventions imposed upon women. It’s about the position of a
star in the society and the perilous liberties it implies.
March 26, 2013 by Great Historicals
5-stars. Romantic and Poetic
June 17, 2013 by Susan Jones, blogger, author
July 23, 2013 by Kim Rendfeld, Outtakes from a Historical Novelist
Enter Alessandro Stradella, a talented middle-aged musician and composer with a well-earned bad boy reputation. The reader will enjoy watching Donatella develop from a star-struck admirer to Stradella’s friend. Will she let go of the inhibitions that imprison her? Exactly how far does her relationship with Stradella go?
You will have to read the book to find out. Stradella was a real-life Baroque composer who is little known today. The heroine and the story are invented but very believable, and I was drawn in to her story and her world. Perhaps this is what Stradella’s life in Genoa was like.
The author’s writing is elegant, revealing the soul of a poet. Her prose, the heroine, her re-creation of 17th-century Genoa, and the tale make this novel a joy to read.
4-Stars. Review of A House Near Luccoli
August 4, 2013 by Matthew Peters, author
3.5-Stars. A Bookish Affair’s Review
August 17, 2013 by Meg, A Bookish Affair
“A House Near Luccoli” is a historical-fiction story of composer, Alessandro Stradella, living in 17th century Italy. While the story is told in third person, it centers on Donatella, a young woman who has been wronged many times in her life, who begins working for Stradella. Stradella is a little known figure of his time but he has a very interesting story, which makes it especially sad that so much of his life has been forgotten.
I was really fascinated by this story. One of my favorite subjects for historical-fiction books are those little known stories where I’m not really familiar with the subject matter. This book falls firmly in this category. It’s always interesting to learn something new. The subject definitely kept my attention! Denton gives us a good taste of Stradella was and what his music and life was like. I definitely feel like I got a lot of insight into who he was.
This is a fairly short read. I did like the storytelling in the book for the most part. The story moved at a quick pace. The author mixes in some Italian words (the book takes place in Italy) in some of the speech. This can be a useful device to create a sense of place but in this case, it seemed to be used very randomly and became somewhat distracting at some points.
Overall, this is an interesting historical-fiction about a little known historical figure.
5-Stars. Poetic and Thought-Provoking Novel
September 3, 2013 by Sam (Goodreads Review)
A House Near Luccoli is a poetic and thought-provoking historical novel. At times joyous, at others melancholy, it tells the story of Donatella, when the composer Alessandro Stradella moves into the house she shares with her aunt and bed-ridden grandmother. Stradella takes over the top floor and soon becomes a central part of Donatella’s life.
The book is not a long one, but it’s not a fast read. There is so much detail in virtually every sentence that it’s something to linger over and savour. I often found myself rereading passages just to be sure I’d caught every last nuance.
The book is set in late seventeenth century Genoa, and the descriptions of the house, the city as a whole, and some of the places within it are a delight to read. You get a real sense of the place and the people who lived there, and can join Donatella on one of her rare trips out of the house, experiencing what she does along the way.
The characters are exquisitely painted. Alessandro Stradella himself was a real person, a composer who has all but been forgotten today, but who was the equivalent of a rock star in his time. His life was quite the scandal at times, and he moved around Italy to escape those scandals, finally ending up in Genoa in his middle age. There are hints of his past in some of the stories and references made to happenings in other cities, but Genoa seems to have accepted him, and he composes, conducts and performs his music in a variety of settings. His character was certainly fascinating enough that I’m going to find out a bit more about the real man, and listen to some of his music.
Donatella is a lovely, loving woman. She clearly adores her grandmother, Nonna, who was an opera singer when she was younger. Although Nonna never leaves her bed, she comes to life through her conversation. It is Nonna who persuades Donatella to become a copyist for Stradella, although Donatella’s aunt, Despina, is bound to disapprove. The three women are a wonderful contrast. Nonna pushes at the boundaries of respectability. Donatella, who is in her thirties, has resigned herself to being unmarried and has settled into a drab existence revolving around her home, although she does have occasional flashes of rebellion. Despina is strict, disapproving of many things, and anxious to maintain propriety at all times. Add the flamboyant Stradella and his disrespectful manservant to the household, along with the ladies’ housemaid and the cook, and a few supporting characters, and the whole becomes a wonderful contrast of characterisation.
This was a truly beautiful story and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. The combination of period and location was one I wasn’t particularly familiar with, and it was a joy to read of a place and time that were unknown to me before.
This book was won in a Goodreads giveaway. My thanks to the author for making it available, and for posting it all the way over here, and for the thoughtful inclusion of two beautiful bookmarks and a card—thanks D.M.! The author has no input to, or preview of, this review.
5-Stars. A Love Story on Every Level
October 13, 2013 by Paul J. Stam, Paul’s Books
The writing is lyrical and melodic that, like good music, carries one away. The reader sees the romance between Alessandro and Donatella developing and hopes beyond measure that it will end happily. At the same time there is the lurking fear that is cannot end well.
I fell in love with the characters and the ending left me all choked up. This is a must read for any one who loves Italy, music, historical novels, and good love stories.
5-Stars. Historic, Romantic and Lovely
October 30, 2013 by Lauren Scott, LScott Poetry
October 30, 2013 by Chris Moran, Journey Into Poetry
The story is set in Genoa, Italy in the 17th century,where we are introduced to the lesser known Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella, whom we learn is also a rather loveable rogue. The almost love affair between Stradella and the young woman Donatella, who resides in the house where he rents a room, keeps us wishing and hoping all the way through.
Not only is the fictional story a page turner, but the book takes us on a cultural journey too, as we are given a glimpse into real life in Genoa where Alessandro Stradella, the composer, was born.
This is a very readable book for those already familiar with historical novels or for the novice; it transports us firmly into the midst of every scene and leaves the reader very hungry for more of Diane’s excellent work.
5-Stars. Without Risk There is no Art
November 16, 2013 by Mary Clark, Mary Clark, Writer
The book explores the ways in which passion can order and disorder an artist’s creativity, and drive even a repressed and unadventurous person to experiment. Stradella’s behavior is a form of rebellion against the power that the elite have over artists in his day. His music is filled with pure notes, a sharp contrast to a corrupt world that tempts him.
When he deconstructs one of the powerful, his risky behavior is a direct threat, not a concerto that can be interpreted and dismissed with a smile. Rearranging and abstracting, done clumsily, appear to be a form of imitation known as mockery. Stradella takes this beyond the stage and written page and pays a heavy price.
Without risk there is no art, only craftsmanship. There are beautiful sentences in this book that would not have been possible without the experimentation that preceded them. A House Near Luccoli tears away at the borders of convention, just as Stradella did in his life.
It may be irrelevant to think in terms of success and failure when it comes to any artistic endeavor, since all efforts contribute to the artist’s journey, and there is always difference of opinion on what has succeeded and what has not. But there are times when the artist and the audience know the effort has not reached the desire outcome, when the intuition has moved in another direction and the work continued at a less inspired and more conceptualized level. In this book, Denton has often remained true to her intuition. Some sentences soar, while many loop out into variations on a theme, as music does, with results that are satisfying, or disconcerting, and oddly, often both. This baroque writing style adeptly embodies the times and the musician/composer who inhabits the story.
November 25, 2013 by Ina Schroders-Zeeders, Poet and Novelist
5-Stars. Historical Fiction as a Work of Art
January 1, 2014 by P.J. Wetzel, Hiker, Writer, Earth Scientist
A little about Denton’s highly distinctive writing style: each sentence is a crafted thoughtscape – often elegant and poetic, rich with visual detail and emotional nuance. As a composer of music-through-prose, I’d judge her style more evocative of Debussy than any of the great Baroque masters. One of her favorite devices is to exploit paradox, as in ‘she was happy and sad.’ Within the infinite directions of a thoughtscape, these are meant to point out pathways. The reader does the walking. Here’s an example – a sentence describing Donatella’s church:
“Santa Maria Maddalena displayed a nativity in front of its main altar, still-life figures in satiny marble, the holy family ignoring those who arrived to bow and marvel, offer gifts already given, and point to unseen stars, donkey and sheep neither tethered nor free.” (p.148)
It felt like a slow start to me, but before I was halfway through the book I found it hard to put down. And now that I’m finished I find myself going back to it. There is so much wealth here that I could read it again and find new paths and a fresh breeze.
5-Stars. Book Review: A House Near Luccoli
August 17, 2014 by Laurel Oettlë, Blogger, Writer
I have a deep appreciation for things that appeal to my sense of beauty. While I enjoy many novels for a multitude of varying reasons, from their excellent characterisation to their capacity to make me see the world in new ways, teach me new things or simply engage my rapt attention, there are only a few that have captured me with their lyricism and beauty. The historic novel A House Near Luccoli by DM Denton flows with a rhythm and melody that took me some time to adjust to – her sophisticated style took a little time to attune to, and I initially found myself re-reading paragraphs to ensure I was completely clear on what was happening. However, once I let go of my structured expectations and instead listened to the unique flow of the novel, I found myself captivated, and transported back to 17th century Italy.
It’s such a unique and poetic style, that I feel as though I can hardly do it justice, and wish instead to share a couple of extracts:
“…Nonna blamed a tendency to malinconia on her granddaughter’s English side with too much rain in her blood. As if climate could be inherited – shifting skies of cloud and sun, never warmer than it was still cool in the shade, hay growing and ripening despite wet feet, root vegetables the staple, walls and hedges rolling along landscapes far from the sea.”
“The azalea flower was suggestive of the new lodger, with a passion for color itself, spraying out from its dramatic center like a cat’s whiskers for effect and purpose, rising stealthily through the shade to reach for the wind as much as the sun.”
Through years of following her wonderful blog, I have been fortunate enough to get to know Diane as a creative artist and poet. It was an entirely new joy to get to know her as a highly skilled historical novelist, and I am looking forward with great anticipation to meeting her nuanced and captivating protagonist, Donatella, once again in the upcoming sequel, To A Strange Somewhere Fled.
September 15, 2014 by Marylee MacDonald, author
Imagine yourself a woman caring for a beloved grandmother and under the thumb of a domineering aunt. Imagine yourself in Genoa in the late seventeenth century, a woman circumscribed by being a woman in an era when women’s single role was to get married and have children. One of the most reliable story plots begins like this: A stranger comes to town. And so begins Diane Denton’s novel. The stranger is Stradella, famed Baroque composer, a roue driven from other towns and settling here, in a house with three women and a sexy young servant. Which one will bed him? Will he seduce rich women and make himself persona non grata here as well? Or has he come her to make, not mischief, but music? Will the sound of that music spill down into the grandmother’s bedroom, a private concert, and will Stradella somehow come to know that Donatella, the thirtiesh spinster, is musically trained and could be of great help to her?
I love historical novels and any story that features a genius and the person who stands behind the genius: a muse, an amanuesis, a lover. Back in late seventeenth century Genoa, inevitably, that person would have been a woman. When Stradella, the feted Baroque composer, takes up residence in her house, Donatella is drawn to him as a moth to flame. The minuet of their attraction and our curiosity about whether the famous Stradella will recognize her gifts kept me reading from the first page to the last. The sentences in this poetic and evocative novel will echo long after you finish the story, but like poetry, you may find yourself slowing down to savor the whispers and stand, for just a minute, at the open window. If you like THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING (book or movie), you will love this book.