Monday, 21 September 2009

La Serenissima

When it comes to the world’s most romantic cities, Venice must be right up there in the top ten. Why so? What is it about this city that attracts us so, and has done for centuries? She is beautiful, of course – the elegance and majesty of her, a grandeur that speaks of a great history, a city that has somehow held her own despite many challenges throughout her centuries.

Yet one of the things I’m certain that fascinates us so about Venice is her inherent sadness. Even within recent memory, she’s suffered damage from the one thing we identify her with above all others – water. With Venice, there’s always the possibility that she may not survive the rising water levels or the next storm. There are many reasons for this, some perhaps to do with the way she was built in the first place, and, and some caused by our planet’s ongoing climate change. She’s suffering more and more damage to the shallow foundations of many of her buildings, and for a city built on canals, one which owes her very existence to her relationship with water, what an irony that it might be her very life-blood that’s hurting her. Yet she’s still here, seemingly eternal despite her fragility. Perhaps Venice has an inner strength, a force deep inside her that means she’ll never be beaten.

When I wrote my short story Perfect Strangers, which is set in a wintry Venice, this awareness of this ‘weight of water’ was constant. The influence of water and weather became a kind of motif in the story from the very beginning.

'Nowhere drizzles like Venice in January.

A fine mist that plays make-believe, pretending it’s not really there until it creeps up on freshly blow-dried hair and into the toes of newly polished boots. Sneaky drizzle.'

Anna meets a quiet, handsome American, and despite that fact that they’re complete strangers to each other, she recognizes a little of herself in him. They’re ‘two perfect strangers in a perfect city,’ and it somehow feels right they should spend the day together. Then Venice begins to work her magic…and what began as an innocent diversion quickly becomes something much, much deeper. Here’s the scene where Venice unleashes her powers of wind and water, and everything between Anna and her companion begins to change.

'As the waterbus headed back across the canal, the winter sun gave up the struggle completely. Black clouds gathered, firing warning shots of ice-cold raindrops across their faces. A sharp, merciless wind whipped the water into foaming white horses that reared and struggled against the blast.
When they docked, the few other passengers scattered and disappeared like a child’s dropped handful of marbles. The skies ripped open and flooded the streets with freezing water as the force of the wind pushed them backward, slapping the hems of their wet coats around their legs.
Anna’s hair whipped around her face as the American grabbed her hand and pulled her along with him, racing for shelter. Stumbling blindly in the rain, she trusted him completely. He made for a shop doorway and hauled her in, both of them laughing and breathless from the run.
“Good God, isn’t there enough water in Venice already?” He squinted up at the sky. “Looks like it’s setting in for a while, too.”
“Clearly somebody somewhere thinks not.” Anna loosened her coat to shake off the rain, then pulled her belt back tight around her waist. Shoving her hands deep in her pockets, she peeked out of the doorway at the storm, shivering. She wrinkled her nose. “Ugh! We’re stuck here.”
“Looks that way.”
“Hmm. It might stop in a moment.”
They both peered up at the sky, then exchanged incredulous glances.
“Unlikely!” they said together.
They watched the rain, listening to it pound the pavement at their feet. A man wrapped up tight against the storm rushed past, one hand clutching a dripping hat to his head; after him, not another soul.
Anna leaned back against the shop window. A small, perfectly conical Christmas tree displayed Murano glass earrings in the shape of tears, and she looked away. She’d had enough of tears.
Softly, his voice moved into her thoughts. “You have diamonds in your hair again.”
Anna looked up, not understanding. “What?”
He lifted his hand to stroke the side of her cheek, and she held her breath. “When I saw you this morning, with the rain on your hair. It looked like diamonds.”
“You were watching long?”
“Oh, a long time. I couldn’t take my eyes off you — this crazy, beautiful woman dancing in Venice in the rain.” He moved toward her, and Anna felt herself drawn to him in return, unbidden, instinctive.
His kiss was a hesitant, unspoken question, and she gave him her perfect answer. Nothing in this world had ever felt so right; it was the kiss she’d been waiting for all her life, and she wrapped herself in it as if she was coming home.
Afterward they held each other close, feeling the peace and stillness that had eluded them both for so long. His sweet, warm breath caressed her face as he spoke.
“I don’t want to be a tourist anymore.”
“No,” Anna whispered. “Marco’s apartment...”
“Yes.” '

When I put together a video trailer for Perfect Strangers, I wanted it to be quite simple, so the obvious choice was to use black and white images. It had to hint at Anna’s sadness, the dearth of colour in her life until the day she comes to Venice and meets her ‘Perfect Stranger.’ Above all, I wanted the magic, beauty and clarity of the city to shine through.

I don’t think the world will lose Venice, despite her troubles. Too many people care about her to let her deterioration continue. She is magical, eternal, and to be cherished – and I hope this will always be the case.

She is loved. And Venice, like love, is per sempre…forever.

Perfect Strangers is available HERE from The Wild Rose Press.

Visit the charity Venice in Peril for more information on the restoration and protection of La Serenissima.


Lindsay Townsend said...

I love Venice, Jane, and your blog brought back many happy memories for me. I agree about it being a haunting, special, faintly sad place, but so inspiring. You capture all that perfectly.

I've voted for your trailer - good luck!

I loved PERFECT STRANGERS - a delicious, atmospheric read and, like Venice, very haunting.

Savanna Kougar said...

Jane, I've never been to Venice, sadly.
However, your blog and excerpt made Venice live for me.
So lovely and magical, the way you bring Anna and her perfect stranger together. It reminds me of those romantic black and white movies when couples caught in the rain find each other as they run to a doorway.
And I can definitely feel that water and rain.

Linda Banche said...

Beautiful excerpt, Jane, and your hero and heroine sound like wonderful people.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Thanks Lindsay, Savanna and Linda! That black-and-white movie feel was just what I wanted. :)

Jane x

LK Hunsaker said...

Jane, we visited Venice back when my daughter was a year old. I have video of her sitting in the gondola looking around at the gorgeous scenery. Even she was quite taken with it. I would love to return and hope you're right that it will be maintained and saved.

Your excerpt is as lovely as the trailer. :-)

Keena Kincaid said...

Beautiful blog, Jane. I spent a day in Venice two years ago, just wandering the streets--and getting more lost than I ever have in my life! Venice is a wonderful, evocative city, and you bring that alive in your excerpt.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

LK and Keena, I'm glad I awoke those memories for you! Lovely to see you both. :)

Jane x