Review on Goodreads by talented Holley Rubinsky:
Review on Goodreads by novelist and Giller Favourite Sheila Dalton:
Review by Kathleen Jones, British poet and biographer with roots in Italy:
Review at the Red room:
December 3: Great review on Goodreads by Linda Lappin in Italy
Caroline Adderson, on FaceBook:
“What a delicious read! I loved being in Italy for a few weeks with the beautifully flawed Clare and participating in her Etruscan comedy of manners. The dialogue was exceptional, so witty! And the descriptions! … A delight.”
Review at: “History and Women” “
Review at: “Historical Novel Review”
Review at: “Book Drunkard”
Review at “Beyond the Fields we Know”:
Review of The Whirling Girl, at literary magazine “Tuck”:
From Owen Sound Sun-Times: “Want to take a trip to golden Tuscany and search for Etruscan treasure? Then this is the novel of the week….”
Review by Bonnie at Koala Bear Writer:
Early Review in Sunshine Coast magazine
The Harbour Spiel
Penticton writer Barbara Lambert’s new novel, The Whirling Girl (Cormorant, 2012), is set among the Etruscan ruins near Cortona, an Italian landscape she lovingly describes and notates like music.
In a meadow filled with wild flowers and curious mounds, there is an ancient house that botanical artist Clare Livingston is both delighted and dismayed to learn that she has inherited from her estranged uncle. This gift is about forgiveness – but to whom, and for what?
Travelling from her Vancouver home to Tuscany to deal with the legal complexities of her inheritance, Clare is also hoping to build on her recent success as a chronicler of endangered plants. She journeyed to the Amazon basin to paint its rare flora and even found a new species, Circaea Livingston Philippiana, named to honour her ancestor. Or did she? Clare is nothing if not ingenuous. And she is not above telling a lie, whether it’s about the provenance of her western belt buckle or the truth of her Amazonian expedition.
Clare becomes entangled in turf wars between archaeologists with different agendas and Lambert plunges the reader into the world of tombaroli or tomb robbers, of the fascinating business of trying to reconstruct mythical gardens through pollen analysis and the faintest of traces, and the difficult excavations of desire and memory. Who is on Clare’s side? And are snakes in the meadow the only danger? In this fast-paced novel, everything shifts and changes as swiftly as the light over the ruined walls, the shadows of umbrella pines leaving their own mysterious clues.
Objects take on huge significance. The tiny blue bead that emerges in a dig at Poggio Selvaggio, for example: the story it tells of imported objects arriving in Etruria from the Middle East, or farther, is so intriguing. Or the mirrors, found in tombs, which were decorated with graphic legends and were passed from woman to woman the way a romantic novel would make the rounds in contemporary society.
I loved the careful attention to plants and terrain in this book and the rich descriptions of artistic process, how the layers of colour applied to paper tease out the shimmer of a poppy or the fragile petals of rock rose.
Near the beginning of the novel, Clare explores her new property. “The leaves ruffled silver. It felt like a memory of a different, parallel life, wandering among these trees. The sun streamed down with the sweet weight of honey. She found a grassy hollow and lay back, studying the quality of the light. Painting here would require a different palette…” And like Clare, the reader is eager to see what this palette might be.