Inspired to learn more by a factoid heard on a classical music station - that Antonio Vivaldi
wrote concertos to showcase the talents of orphan girls, and hopefully snare husbands for a lucky few - Collins's research resulted in Hidden Voices: The Orphan Musicians of Venice
. However this is not so much a story of Vivaldi (although he is an important and often present character) but rather a novel about three fictional girls and their experiences under his tutelage and beyond.
The three main characters - Rosalba, Anetta, and Luisa - are three very different girls with different dreams and experiences, and together their stories make for one much larger whole. At first, the voices of the characters seemed to blend together (in the early chapters I occasionally I had to flick back to see the name at the top of), but as the novel progressed, the girls and their stories became much more distinguished from each other. I have to admit, at first I was not keen on the idea of three narrators all in first person present, but Collins proved to be very adept at writing out a different story arc and direction for each character, but still weaving those arcs and more into one larger story, and sharing such information between the three viewpoints.
Through Rosalba, Anetta, and Luisa Collins vividly describes the lives of the orphan girls living in the orphanage, from how they arrive to the different ways they can leave, and their daily lives in between those two milestones. We are provided glimpses into the beauty of the music and of Venice, but also through the darker sides of living in that time, especially as an orphan. In the novel Collins touches on such subjects as illness, death, abandonment and rape, as well as friendship, community and hope, and, of course, the idea of what family is to those without. Hidden Voices: The Orphan Musicians of Venice
is a lovely written historical novel focusing on original characters to represent so many real people and their experiences, and one that provided me with a new main piece of information, as well as many more smaller pieces.