This book cover drew me in right away. I’ve always wanted to go to Venice, I like to sketch and hope to do more of it when I travel (although I must say with the digital camera age it is so much easier to simply take a photo and sketch or paint from that on returning home), and the misty watercolour on the cover just captured my imagination totally.
The Venice Sketchbook takes place in two eras and tells the present day story of Caroline Grant, abandoned by her husband for the glamour of New York and refusing to return her son, and the pre-war story of her aunt Juliet Browning (Lettie), former art teacher reaching the end of her life, and how, just as Lettie has been a positive and powerful influence on Caroline in the past, her story will have an even greater influence on Caroline’s future.
The novel begins with the backstory of Aunt Lettie’s time in Venice just before war breaks out and diplomats are leaving Italy for home and her visit with her aunt in 1928, just before she is to attend art school there— an opportunity that fails to happen until much later. Meanwhile, Caroline’s backstory begins and catches us up to the time when her husband has left, she is dissatisfied with her work, and is ready to accept her Aunt Lettie and her granny’s offer to move into the house they share and change her employment if she wants. When Aunt Lettie dies and leaves Caroline 3 old keys and the request to distribute her ashes in Venice, Caroline is thrown into a different world where she begins to unravel the mystery of her aunt’s early years of romance, daring, and determination, an unravelling that shows Caroline a way out of her dilemma into a bright future.
This story is a times fairly predictable but is well told and takes quite a few unexpected turns. It is a quick read, with lots of interesting descriptions of parts of Venice, its traditions, customs, and festivals, and many interesting characters especially during the war years. An enjoyable summer read especially for anyone who enjoys stories that take place in foreign parts or war romances. ****