Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli is a wonderful young adult novel set in Venice in the 1590s. Donata Mocenigo, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a noble family with twelve children, lives a sheltered life. She has never been taught to read and write, and she rarely leaves her family’s palazzo, except in the company of her mother and sisters. Because her family can afford a dowry for only one daughter—her oldest sister Andriana—Donata and her sisters will be forced to join a convent. Donata has no desire to spend her life in a convent, and she longs to explore the city. Disguising herself as a poor boy, she sneaks out of the palazzo, wanders through Venice, and ends up in the Ghetto, where she meets a young Jewish man, Noè, who works in a printer’s shop. Donata works as a copyist in the shop, and she learns how the Jewish community and the poor of Venice live, and becomes a more compassionate person, realizing how selfish she’s been by making her sisters account for her frequent absences. She falls in love with Noè, who does not realize she’s a girl, but knows they can never be together because he’s Jewish and she’s Catholic. When she returns to the palazzo, she asks to sit in on her brothers’ lessons with their tutor, and discovers that she has a great love of learning. But, since she’s a girl, university study, which her brothers wish for, is denied her. Then it turns out that her father can afford a dowry for her, after all, but it’s her twin sister, Laura, who wishes to marry. And her family becomes suspicious of her absences. Will she be able to set things right, so Laura can marry? And then what will become of Donata in the future? Will she tell Noè she’s a girl, and will they have a future together, in spite of the difference in their religions?
Author Napoli makes you want to keep turning the pages for every step of Donata’s adventures, and you can’t help but wish that things will turn out well for her. Daughter of Venice is a young adult novel, but any reader with an interest in Venice or the Italian Renaissance, or in a good historical novel, will want to read it.
Daughter of Venice is in the Children's Collection in Special Collections: http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/012496185 . It does not circulate, but you can read it in Special Collections. Also, sample text is available online: http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/random042/2001032426.html . And the book is available from the Ann Arbor District Library: http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1187501 .