A House Near Luccoli by D. M. Denton
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.