Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie

*I received this book as an ARC.  The review, and my opinions, are all my own.*

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie is definitely not a fluffy beach-read.  It is a book that demands to be savored slowly and thoughtfully with its lushly-written descriptions and gradually-evolving plot.  Neither is it a book that can be fully appreciated the first time it is read.  The reader may even feel a little frustrated with how slowly the plot progresses but when you get to the end, you want to read it again in order to appreciate all the nuances and subtle hints that were missed in the first reading.

The book begins with Maddie in California, waiting for her fiance to arrive from England until she is told that he has died in a car accident.  She grieves for him and for the marriage that will never take place.  She continues to work and live her life but feels isolated and lonely until her Italian grandmother sends her to Tuscany.  In Tuscany she begins to feel alive again and becomes interested in the story of a centuries-old villa. 
Interspersed with the story of Maddie is another story that takes place in 14th century Tuscany.  It tells the story of the inhabitants of the villa that Maddie finds so intriguing, although it isn't until well into the book that the connection is made. It is about Mia, a mute young woman who lives with her aunt Jacquetta in 1347 Tuscany.  She has reason to grieve as well as do some of the patrons of the wayside inn run by her aunt. 
It is while staying in Tuscany and discovering the history of the villa that Maddie is able to make peace with the empty space in her life that was supposed to be her first year of marriage.  She is able to find her life again and fill it with other people and interests.  Her visit to Italy has become a pilgimage where she feels the lines blurring between the ancient and modern worlds and where she can imagine a better and happier life for herself, one in which she can be whole.  "Something was allowing her to be touched by the world around her again" when before she "felt emotionally torn between two worlds."  The weather figures in the story in a mystical sort of way, as do birds.  There is also a sort of mysticism and a feeling of destiny in Maddie's life.  All in all, it is an interesting book that lingers with you when you finish it so that you have to go back and read bits and pieces again and again.