Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini

The Silent Duchess is the English translation from the original Italian. Taking place in 18th century Sicily, it's the story of a deaf mute woman named Marianna.

Marianna has been deaf and mute for as long as she can remember, but she suspects she hasn't always been that way. At age 12 she is married off to her uncle. I know, ick! Anyway, she becomes a Duchess.

The fact that Marianna can't speak in a time and place where women didn't have a voice was not lost on me. I knew it was on purpose. Women back then were either married or sent to a convent. That's it. Marianna has to weave her way through life while being looked at as an odd woman, not only because she's deaf and mute, but because she loves to read. Le gasp.

Marianna starts to read people's thoughts, but strangely enough, all the thoughts she read were about her: how people pitied her or thought her strange. I wondered if this wasn't just in her imagination. However, there was one incident where it seemed possible that she could read the thoughts of others, so I'm not certain.

Once her uncle husband (as she calls him) kicks the bucket, Marianna starts to find herself. She sees herself as more than a wife and mother. She takes not a care how people think of her, and even starts to feel the first stirrings of love.

I loved the ending, it wasn't definite. It was left with all kinds of possibilities, which I love.

There's absolutely no dialogue in this novel, because it's all from the point of view of Marianna. She communicates with others through notes, but other than that, we are left with her thoughts, which are deeply profound and interesting, which break the stereotypes of women from back then. She loves to strive for knowledge, another thing that makes her appear odd to others.

Overall, a beautiful novel that will leave you thinking.