The Glassmaker

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Pub Date 12 Sep 2024 | Archive Date 3 Oct 2024



'A triumph… a brilliant idea carried out with confidence and brio and a deep love of an extraordinary city. The ingenuity of the time-skipping is beyond admiration' PHILIP PULLMAN

'Spellbinding…. Chevalier at her fabulous best. A rich, vivid and gently enchanting novel' ELIF SHAFAK

Venice, 1486. Across the lagoon lies Murano. Time flows differently here – like the glass the island’s maestros spend their lives learning to handle.

Women are not meant to work with glass, but Orsola Rosso flouts convention to save her family from ruin. She works in secret, knowing her creations must be perfect to be accepted by men. But perfection may take a lifetime.

Skipping like a stone through the centuries, we follow Orsola as she hones her craft through war and plague, tragedy and triumph, love and loss.

The beads she creates will adorn the necks of empresses and courtesans from Paris to Vienna – but will she ever earn the respect of those closest to her?

Tracy Chevalier is a master of her own craft, and The Glassmaker is vivid, inventive, spellbinding: a virtuoso portrait of a woman, a family and a city that are as everlasting as their glass.


'A triumph… a brilliant idea carried out with confidence and brio and a deep love of an...

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ISBN 9780008153885
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Featured Reviews

Tracy Chevalier is one of the best writers of historical fiction currently working and her latest, The Glassmaker, is no disappointment. Centred around Murano, the island which produces most of the glass that Venice is famed for, the story stretches over 6 centuries but retains the same central characters throughout.

Orsola is part of the Rosso family of glassmakers and becomes involved herself as the maker of glass beads to help the family economically. Chevalier uses the very clever plot device of imagining time working differently in Murano, with the image of a stone skimming down on water at different points in times which are particularly significant to the area, such as the height of Venice’s trading past, the arrival of the plague, Napoleon, the First World War and Covid. The same family are there and hardly aging between any of the events and it’s a beautiful way of expressing how the craft has stayed largely unchanged over the centuries and despite whatever is happening around it.

The detail given of how the glassmaking is carried out is perfectly balanced, very informative but never getting bogged down. Tracy Chevalier does so much research but also seems to actively try the craft herself and that really adds to the knowledge displayed. All the characters and relationships are well developed and feel real, with nobody either entirely perfect or completely flawed. The women are particularly strong and resourceful, taking centre stage for most of the book and adapting to what is happening around them in whatever way they can to ensure their family survives.

As always, Chevalier’s writing is beautiful and you’re completely transported to the place and various times. I loved this book, it really did feel like flowing through the waves of time to somewhere that is so different to anywhere else and where anything seems possible. Truly wonderful.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy in return for an honest review.

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I've enjoyed a number of Chevalier's previous novels and this one was no exception. I loved the exploration of the history of glass making in the Venetian lagoon (I learned a huge amount) and the setting was well evoked, practically leaping off the page. Characterisation was multi dimensional and I relished seeing character arcs develop over centuries amidst the ever changing Venice. I was totally immersed in this novel and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

Many thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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This is another Tracy Chevalier blockbuster of a book. It follows the life of a woman from a glassmaking family on the island of Murano. Orsola learns from a woman in another family how to make glass beads, which are looked down on by her family but bring in necessary money when times are hard. Chevalier plays with the timeline in an interesting way, so that Orsola and her immediate family and close connections seem to live through hundreds of years of time as perceived the world 'outside' her little island community and the parts of Venice she visits. The characters are fully formed and credible and the lives of both men and women in the glassmaking families are well told, as is their dependence on the merchant who commissions and sells their work. As always, this story is well researched and beautifully told and I highly recommend it.

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Another beautifully crafted historical masterpiece by Tracy Chevalier who is writing at the top of her form.

Venice and Murano come to life through the decades and centuries and are perhaps the real heroes of this incredible family saga. Not only are the main characters depicted so beautifully and painstakingly but so is their craft and I learned and enjoyed so much about both beads and glass.

There is a truly original literary device employed regarding the aging of the main characters which works quite brilliantly and this is a wonderful book surely bound for fully deserved critical acclaim.

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I have always been fascinated by the world of crafts displayed in Tracy Chevalier's novels. Always a different craft, always masterfully woven in the storyline fitting perfectly the plot. This novel is no exception! Even though the time setting is a bit different as it spreads over centuries, with the same characters who grow older but only by a few years instead of centuries. It may seem strange but it worked perfectly: the psychological development of the characters exactly fit the new time period they live in. This enables the reader to follow a (as any) family of glassmakers along with the marking social, political events which affected their craft over the years. No need to create a new set of characters. Very impressive! As for the characters themselves, they are so finely depicted, you can see , hear them. What I also really enjoyed and seems to be characteristic for the author, is the description of the settings, here Venice. Venice is vividly painted along with its own (social, political, architectural)development through the centuries. This was fascinating! I highly recommend this novel!
I received a digital copy of this novel from NetGalley and I am leaving voluntarily an honest review.

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In "The Glassmaker," Tracey Chevalier skillfully weaves together different time periods while keeping the characters at a consistent age. This approach offers a captivating exploration of identity and history, prompting readers to reflect on how individuals maintain their core selves amidst changing circumstances. Chevalier's unique narrative technique adds depth to the story, making it both engaging and thought-provoking. I loved it for its creativity and the way it seamlessly blended historical fiction with character-driven storytelling.

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Wow! Yet another wonderful book. I have always been a fan of Tracey’s work but I think The Glassmaker is the best one yet. A quirky time travel background mixed with realistic characters make for a great read.

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What a beautiful book cover, taking you immediately into a world set on water. It's a fascinating, timeless story of the Rossi family, living in Venice in or around 1486. Orsola Rossi flouts all the rules and works secretly as a glassmaker, not normally allowed as a woman's career.. We move with her through the centuries, learning of love and loss, plague and war, and triumph. It is a vividly written book that keeps you wondering what can possibly happen next.
Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read this book.

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'The City of Water runs by it's own clock' and so we meet the marvellous Orsola Rosso in Renaissance Murano, and follow her and her Rosso family 's lives, into the modern era via plague (and later COVID) , love, loss, wars, heartbreak and of course glass-making. This is a glittering treasure of a book. A love letter to a place and to being creative and how both make time seem to stand slow down. Tracy Chevalier writes with brilliance and skill creating a richly described immersive world. There are a lot of characters and time shifts which in another writer's hands would be overwhelming or confusing, but in Chevalier's it creates an interconnected story of Venice from past to present told through the prism of one family of glassmakers.

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Another wonderful Tracy Chevalier novel so beautifully written.Her characters Venice glasswork,time travel all combine to make a mesmerizing read.#netgalley #harperuk

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I loved this book so much I don’t think a review could do it justice. Venice truly came alive in its pages and Orsola’s story gripped me more than I would have imagined possible. I loved the way that the author played with time, hundreds of years passing for the world but only a few for the key players in the story. The relationships were so keenly drawn and so believable. I feel bereft now it’s finished.

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The Glassmaker by Tracy Chevalier
I have read almost all of Tracy Chevalier’s novels and loved each onebut this one is one of my favourites. It is set around Murano in Italy and as with many of her books focuses on a craft, this time glassmaking. Having recently taken part in glassmaking sessions and created blown glass objects I could really relate to her descriptions of the glass workshops.
She has used an interesting idea here of writing the story over 6 centuries but remaining focused on the same characters. She simply moves them forward in time; through this technique we are able to see all the changes which occurred in Murano we see the impact of the Plague, the importance of Venice as a trading port, the arrival of the Austrians and then Napoleon. We see the impact of the First World War on the family and on glassmaking and then finally we are brought forward to the effects of Covid.
We meet Orsola, the main character, when she is a young girl. She is pushed into the water by her brother and her mother sends her into the glass workshop of one of their rivals. She is ostensibly there to dry off but she is also instructed to find out as much as she can while she is there. She encounters a female bead maker who is to have a profound effect upon her life.
This is a stunning novel and one which I did not want to put down. I wanted to put everything else on hold whilst I immersed myself in the life of the glassmakers. I truly felt as if I had travelled through time and encountered all of these characters. Remarkable!
I will be recommending this book to everyone at my various book groups. I would like to thank Tracy Chevalier, the publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.

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A classic Chevalier weaving meticulous research with an epic tale of love and loss set in Venice, where the use of time travel seamlessly suits the magic of the lagoon city.

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The Rossos are a family of glassmakers in 15th century Murano. Orsola, the daughter of the family yearns to be a glassmaker herself in the male dominated world and is inspired by the one woman glassworker on the island to teach herself to make decorative beads, at which she comes to excel. The story skips from century to century towards the present, as the family has to deal with accidental death, plague, competition from abroad and war. Across time the family dynamics are central but there are important and shifting trading partners to deal with. Beautifully written and utterly compelling, its a must read.

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A new Tracy Chevalier novel is always welcome in this house. In this one we have the story of the island of Murano and its place in the history of glassmaking. The story is told over several centuries and through the eyes of Orsola, a member of a glassmaking family who starts making glass beads to help her family after the tragic death of her father.

I loved this book. The descriptions of Murano and Venice through the ages are so vivid that you can see and smell the city as though you were there. Chevalier also goes into great detail about how glass is made and I now really regret my decision not to visit Murano during my two visits to Venice.

I wasn't sure about the time travel aspect of the book. I tend to like my fiction to have its feet firmly in reality (though there are exceptions of course). This book turned out to be one of them. The idea of time being fluid just as glass is worked well in my opinion and I had no problem at all in believing in Orsola and her companions not ageing at the same rate as the rest of the world.

I have to mention the cover as well. It's made to look like pieces of glass with the most stunning font for the title and author name. I love it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Borough Press for the ARC of this remarkable book.

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Tracy Chevalier books are always reliably good and interesting - what a jewel of a writer she is. I loved her last book about bell ringing and needlepoint and experts at their craft once agin feature in this new novel about Murano Glassmaking near Venice. The conceit here is that we follow Orsola (and her friends and family) from the Renaissance through to the current day as they age differently to real ife, so we see how the history of glassmaking and its fortunes changes over the centuries at specific points in time - so perhaps 200 years in time will pass but Orsola and her family and colleagues will have only aged say 9 years. This allows Chevalier to explore the heyday of Murano glass making when Murano could only be reached by boat from Venice and anyone involved in the glass making could never leave and take the secrets of production with them on pain of being traced and assassinated, through to hard times during the plague, growing competition and tarrifs form Eastern and other European countries. A decline into surviving thorugh producing whimsical tourist trinkets and our own most recent "plague." It also allows us to see how Orsola navigates her relationships and adapts to changing times and how she herself grows older.

I looked forward each day to catching up with Orsola whilst reading the book. A good read.

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The Glassmaker by Tracy Chevalier

Love , love, love books by this author and until now her previous title A Single Thread was my favourite from her. That is until now , another brilliant read with characters you feel you would have for friends had you been around them.

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The Glass Maker by Tracy Chevalier

A captivating story that follows an Italian glassmaking family through 300 years of tragedy and triumphs.
Through the eyes and experiences of Orsola Rossa life in and around Murano and Venice is brought to life- the patriarchal system relegated her to a life of servitude and menial household tasks but Orsola is determined to contribute to the family by learning to make glass beads- something that her glass making father and brothers would not demean themselves to do. Family fortunes suffer when her father is killed by a shard of glass and the eldest brother becomes the Maestro . His greed and selfishness nearly destroys the family business with politics and pestilence threatening to diminish the family even more.
Orsola's first love is Antonio who is forced to leave Murano but she never forgets him and the regular appearance of special glass dolphins keeps his memory alive.
The journey through the years takes the reader back as Orsola survives from 1600s to the present day- the author using the metaphor of stone skimming to skip through the years - a device that takes a while to grapple with, but as we travel through history- plague, floods, deaths and wars and follow the fortunes and misfortunes of Venetian glassmakers the reader is captivated by the detailed world and vivid lives described.
An engrossing read that I was genuinely sad to finish.

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The Glassmaker is an outstanding historical novel told in a really unusual and unique way.

The novel covers 500 years, starting in the 1400s and ending just after the covid pandemic. We follow Orsola, the daughter of a maestro glassmaker based in Murano near Venice. The passage of time and the ageing of Orsola and her family do not happen at the same rate. Time skips forward alongside the imagery of a stone being skimmed on the water. But Orsola ages much more slowly and is only in her sixties at the end of the novel. The first time this happens, I was a bit confused but you find the rhythm of the book I accepted that actually this was a clever way of staying focussed on the same set of characters whilst understanding the historical changes of the place around them. Some of the history is explained in detail for instance how the family cope during the plague and other historical events pass by in a flash. I enjoyed the paragraphs where the history of many years was summarised briefly. It was very interesting to consider the changes one family endured, which would normally have played out across many generations.

I loved this book. It is a family saga set against a backdrop of how a traditional craft fares against an ever changing world, told in a really unique way. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a historical novel. I couldn't rate it as anything other than 5 star because I enjoyed it so much!

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

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This is the story of Orsola Rosso, daughter of a glassmaker’s dynasty in Murano, starting in 1486 when she is 8 years old. We meet Orsola (and the people she cares about) again and again over the next five centuries - they seem to only be slowly ageing in a time bubble that seems to be singular to Venice. At first I was not sure what this time-travelling would bring to the table, but, wow, it does work!
Chevalier still masters that breathtaking sense-of-scene that she so excels at. The sights and sounds of Venice and Murano and the lagoon, the wealth and poverty, loves and losses, glass furnaces and bawdy inns, the calle and canals will transport the reader into this colourful world.
A passionate declaration of love to Venice!

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Wow! What a book.
I love Chevalier's historical fiction, especially the ones that recentre facts around strong female characters. The absolute joy of this book was that our main character didn't have to become superhuman/break moulds completely but was revolutionary in the way that she did everything by being completely faithful to the times lived in and the industry she worked in.

This book has a fabulous sense of place, you definitely walk/boat around Murano and Venice with Orsola and her family - the sights, sounds and smells are beautifully evoked and if I shut my eyes the book lived in my imagination.

I very much liked the device Chevalier used to move time forward, it meant that great swathes of history could be moved through without having to also get to grips with a whole new cast and then also it showed how timeless the glass industry and Venice are.

Definitely one of my top reads of the year,

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I loved this book for the way it magically transported me to Murano and into history . The lives of the glassmakers and of Orsola Rosso who sets out to make glass against all traditions in a bid to save the family business are so exquisitely described , you can feel the heat from the furnaces and see the glass flowing . A skimming stone is used to transport the reader to another century and another chapter in the history of glassmaking , it is used in a way to ensure that the reader finds it natural that Orsola witnesses all the events., The way Tracey Chevalier weaves the story together makes it easy to forget that someone alive during the Renaissance could not possibly be around to see Venice turn into a major tourist destination in the Twentieth Century.
This is both the love story of Ursula and to the tradition of glassmaking on Murano.

Thank you to the publisher for gifting me an advance copy to review ,this is a book that I look forward to reading again once its published and shall be recommending to my reading group.

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Another classic from Tracy Chevalier! Thus great slice of women's historical fiction focuses on a family of glassmakers on the island of Murano, just outside Venice. It discusses their relationships and business problems, while weaving in so many historical details about the glass trade and Venetian trade. I particularly liked the scenes set during plague quarantines, which were clearly influenced by Covid and brought the repeated terror of the plagues in Venice to life. One really interesting choice was that the author repeatedly skips forward in time, but instead of moving to another generation, simply has the main characters skip forward too, in an almost magical realist way. This could have been very jarring, but it actually served to show how little changed in the backwater of Murano, and how people were essentially living in a medieval way for centuries. Thoroughly recommended.

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This is a glorious read! I was swept away to Venice and became fully immersed in life there to the point of not wanting to step back into my own life when I had to put the book down. I love Tracy Chevalier’s books and this is now my favourite. She has created a wonderful opportunity for the reader to move through time with spirited Orsola Rosso and her family, learning about the craft of glassmaking and experiencing life in Murano and Venice at important times in history. I found it absolutely captivating. The way that the characters move forward in time without ageing at the same rate is so clever. The members of the Rosso family are appealingly flawed and genuine. I felt invested in their lives and wanted them to succeed. The sense of place is incredible throughout and made me feel as though I had been transported to Venice and Murano, and was experiencing the sights, smells and sounds with the characters. I won’t forget this book any time soon!

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As usual in my reviews, I will not rehash the plot - instead I recommend that you read this for yourself!

I've read several books by Tracy Chevalier, and this is my favourite!

As usual, the author has clearly done huge amounts of research into the history and background of her settings and characters, and it shows.

The story uses a clever device to explain how we are able to follow Orsola Rosso and her family through the centuries. I always love a timeshift novel, and this was really beautifully handled - time moves differently on the island of Murano. This allows us to travel through notable periods in history, keeping step with a growing cast of characters with the Rosso family members at the centre. Truly inspired!

Having been - for a few years a while ago - a maker of glass beads myself, I really enjoyed reading about how the process was done in the past, and also the huge amount of detail describing other forms of glasswork. I was sorry to reach the end of the book if I'm honest, and would love it if there were other stories about this family.

Looking forward to reading more by Tracy Chevalier!

Recommended if you like your historical novels with timeshifts!

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC. All opinions my own.

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Classic Tracy Chevalier.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Orsola is the daughter of a glassmaker in Murano. Glassmaking is men's work, and women are expected to know their place and keep the home running, but Orsola wants to learn the art. She meets one woman who has made her way in this man's world and learns the skills from her.
The story travels through time with Orsola, starting in the 15th century. Chevalier plays with time, using the device of a stone skipping across a lake, stopping at different time periods when the world has moved on, but Orsola and her family have aged only slightly. World events, such as the great plague, the First World War and even Covid are experienced by Orsola.
Fantastic detail about glassmaking, and a compelling narrative, together with descriptions of Venice and Murano, make this a really good read.

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It’s another gem from Ms Chevalier!

As you come to expect from her books you are not only transported to a time and place, but completely immersed into the lives of her characters. We follow Orsola Rosso, a Muranaise glass bead maker. The fact that it is so unusual for women of the time to be allowed and accepted in the world of Murano glass making is no accident as it is Orsola’s strength determination and stoicism that dictates the story we follow. As each chapter in he life concludes we are taken via the analogy of a stone skipping over water to another time and whilst our protagonist ages naturally, the backdrop of Venice and its islands skip through decades and centuries. I found this concept hard to grasp initially but once I realised what was happening, embraced it and became eager to see how Orsola would adapt to an ever changing world. Most of the female characters are strong, made all the more obvious by the accurate descriptions of the male dominated world they revolve in.

As usual, the attention to detail is unsurpassed and you really have to credit Chevalier with being one of the best fiction researchers around today. I find her use of the English language to be ideal for a book to be enjoyed and not just studied, it is accessible and yet so descriptive, without becoming bogged down in unnecessary detail or becoming too verbose.

The story loosely follows a lost love and the fallout from it but it is so much more than a romance. It details the intricate workings both physical and political of the world of glassmaking and yet is so much more than simply a history book. It describes Venice through the ages but is more than a travel guide (although I can guarantee you’ll be thinking about a trip there soon!).

Not sure if you’re interested in glassmaking? Give it a go, you’ll be surprised!

How long until the next one? 😂

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The Glassmaker is a truly astonishing work of historical fiction. Tracy Chevalier is a gifted writer with an incredible eye for detail and in this book, as in others, she has brought a specific and little known skill to life in an ingenious way. Centred around glassmaking, Orsola makes glass beads. I was fascinated by the process and it adds an amazing factual perspective to glimpses through time as the beads skip over some six centuries. Retaining a simple singular viewpoint, the story weaves around other important events and their impact including plague, Napoleon, the First World War and Covid. It’s a clever and imaginative literary device and works seamlessly here.

Chevalier is adept at bringing things to life, be it places or people. I felt I was in Venice when it was a trading centre of the world some five hundred years ago. There’s a vibrancy and elegance to her writing which never seems laboured and her characters are so real. Without doubt, she’s one of the greatest living authors and this is destined to be a best seller. Simply outstanding and totally immersive.

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