Here’s the part where I plug my personal blog, and hope someone, anyone goes to check it out.
It’s not the most memorable of plot lines or characters, but the commitment and appreciation of setting is a tremendous boon. Set in a Renaissance Venice glass blower-y, The Falcon in the Glass captures a young adult’s struggle to find their place in a world that doesn’t involve a single school (but has a big chunk of teaching), that has no cliques, but definitely deals with class and sectarianism.
It’s rare to find really well done historical YA fiction, let alone historical YA fiction that delves into long past times. To capture both the universality of teenage education, social conflict and family trouble and the unique experience of Renaissance Venice is tremendous to find. Chances are it’s not propping up any island displays in your neighborhood Barnes & Noble, and it won’t grab much attention. But if you have a young reader with a hunger for history, you could do a lot worse than this book.
Greenblatt is most famously known for his books on Shakespeare, or at least, that’s why I know the name even though I haven’t read any of them. This book explores the rediscovery of antique works in Christian Europe around the time of the Renaissance, and the premise reminded me of Petrarch, a name I vaguely remembered from college history classes. This book focuses specifically on Lucretius’ poem On the Nature of Things and the book hunter Poggio Braccioloni who lived about a generation or two after Petrarch. I definitely enjoyed the book but I also think the back cover and the title in itself may be a bit misleading regarding the book’s topic and argument.
For example, this is straight from the book description section on Amazon: “One of the world’s most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.” However, while Greenblatt choose to focus on this particular manuscript, he doesn’t make the argument that it alone changed the world or caused modernity – he makes an argument that it had an influence and a role, but so did several other things. While I don’t want to argue about the importance of Lucretius’s work specifically, to me, the book read less as an argument of how Lucretius changed thoughts, and more of an example of how things were changing in general, and this particular poem was used to show the journey that many others would have been taking at this point in time. On the Nature of Things has some unique viewpoints and perspectives it brought to the table, but the story of its discovery is probably representative of many other works.