by MacDonald Harris.
New York: Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, Incl, 1979.
Also London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1980.
From the Jacket:
Venice in 1797. The fire of revolution is consuming Europe, and the armies of
Bonaparte approach. In this old city full of
grandeur and shadows, the rich gamble and go to concerts, gondoliers croon Tasso,
the senile Doge poses in his toga; all prefer to pretend nothing
is happening. But, from the Lido only three miles away, there
is the grumble of gunfire, and we are immediately caught up in a mysterious
adventure. An American captain who is a mercenary in the Venetian
Navy, an English girl who is carrying something on her person, a French
agent who is pretending to be a musician--or is it the
other way around? Nothing can be relied on for certain in this mesmerizing
novel, except that the story unfolds smoothly and effortlessly, like a
sailor's yarn, in a setting of brilliant, enamel-like clarity.
Into this historical fiction come a rich tone and a mature
complexity of feeling that designate MacDonald Harris as a writer at
the height of his powers. Here, indeed,is one of those rare novels
whose romance enhances its distinction, whose excellence is
handmaiden to its dash. Against the backdrop of warfare and diplomacy, religion
and madness, MacDonald Harris has created a love story
charged with erotic suspense. Its principle characters are
Malcolm Langrish, mercenary captain of the
Pandora, taciturn, solid, canny; the English girl, Winifred,
striking rather than pretty, gamine and game, first Malcolm's
prisoner, then the source of his consternation; Jean-Marie, the
elegant Frenchman with a mind so supple that it cannot be firm;
and Zulietta, the courtesan, who may be an image of Venice itself.
And Venice is a vital and important presence in the book--a gilded and
marvelous artifact, as insubstantial as spun sugar, yet with the realityi of those
cities we recognize not because they exist, but because we have inhabited
them in recurring dreams.
Pandora's Galley elegance, richness, and sweep clearly proclaim that it
is MacDonald Harris' most important novel. In it, as in
The Balloonist, (nominated for the National Book Award in
fiction), and Yukiko, MacDonald Harris has taken the materials of history and
love and fashioned a remarkable work of art.
Critical Acclaim for Pandora's Galley
- "I read Pandora's Galley with tremendous enjoyment
and think it is the best, so far, of all Mr. Harris' remarkable books. It is
a truly fine historical novel: brilliant evocative, vigorous, exciting, witty.
The Venice of Napoleon's day is vividly real and haunting. A
- "Pandora's Galley is a feast. Harris is dealing with
a little-known and fascinating corner of history, and his
Venice of 1797 vibrates with vivid delight. I
read Pandora's Galley with sheer delight."
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