Set at the turn of the 19th century in Venice and Peru, The Book of Human Skin is a compellingly macabre and horrific read. I couldn’t put it down – just couldn’t stop turning the eloquently written pages!
Told through the eyes and experiences of five characters, this is a novel about the Fasan family of Venice and the convent Santa Catalina in Arequipa, Peru. It follows the life journey of Marcella Fasan, younger sister to the insane and sadistic Minguillo, who seeks to slowly destroy his sister in any way he can, first just for the pleasure of it and then to ensure the Fasan fortune remains in his evil hands. It is also a love story and the novel keeps the reader on edge as Minguillo keeps Marcella and Doctor Santo apart with walls and oceans.
Marcella’s journey takes her into the madhouse on the island of San Servolo located in the Venetian Lagoon and then finally to the convent of Santa Catalina in Arequipa, Peru, where she falls into the hands of the equally insane and sadistic nun Sor Loreta.
In Sor Loreta and Minguillo, Lovric has created characters with boundless villainy and I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering what these two would do next. Fleshing out these characters we are witness to their obsessions including Minguillo`s anthropodermic bibliophilia and Sor Loreta`s religious fanaticism and holy anorexia.
Reading this novel I really felt that I was transported back to 19th century Venice and Peru and in particular it really gave me a good picture of the convent of Santa Catalina. Both Venice and Peru are on my bucket list of places to travel too and explore and even more so now.
At the end of the novel Lovric provides us with some background information on the facts within the fiction. As with any good historical novelist, Lovric has done her research and I finished the book wanting more and will be checking out her other work.
It has also left me hungry to learn more about some of the topics within (I am a bit of a history buff) and I will be checking out a couple of books Lovric cites at least, namely `Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Woman` by Catherine Bynum and `Holy Anorexia`by Rudolph M. Bell.
Definitely my favourite read of 2011 so far and on my favourite authors list.