17 December 2010

Imprint Friday: The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Pamela Dorman Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Even with today's technological advances, the prospect of losing one's sight is frightening, but imagine what it must have been like 200 years ago. Carey Wallace's The Blind Contessa's New Machine takes us to Italy at the turn of the nineteenth century and the story of Contessa Carolina Fantoni, who inspired the invention of the first working typewriter.

Here's the publisher's summary:

In the early 1800s, a young Italian contessa, Carolina Fantoni, realizes she is going blind shortly before she marries the town's most sought-after bachelor. Her parents don't believe her, nor does her fiancé. The only one who understands is the eccentric local inventor and her longtime companion, Turri. When her eyesight dims forever, Carolina can no longer see her beloved lake or the rich hues of her own dresses. But as darkness erases her world, she discovers one place she can still see--in her dreams. Carolina creates a vivid dreaming life, in which she can not only see, but also fly, exploring lands she had never known.

Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri invents a peculiar machine for her: the world's first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will change both of their lives forever.

Based on the true story of a nineteenth-century inventor and his innovative contraption, The Blind Contessa's New Machine is an enchanting confection of love and the triumph of the imagination.
I found it almost impossible to browse through Wallace's novel; on almost every page, I was stopped by her captivating prose. From Carolina's attempts to tell her family of her diminishing sight to the horrible morning when opening her eyes brought no light, I was caught up in the story, wanting to know how she coped, how her husband would react, and what would happen when she was given her new machine.

I wasn't the only one taken in by Wallace's style.
  • Jenny from Take Me Away wrote: "This unique and compact story is full of such beautiful and lyrical prose that, if for no other reason, it should be savored for the writing alone. And Carey Wallace has such an enchanting style of storytelling with subtle humor . . . and alluring descriptions."
  • Melanie from Lit*Chick said "It is a difficult thing to write so grandly yet with restraint, and there is a perfect balance here. Rarely have I been curious to listen to an audiobook, but it seems to me the words would be so full and glorious spoken aloud."
  • Cate from Real Life with Kids noted "Describing the world of Carolina could easily be two dimensional and colorless. We are given such a feast of experience through words that it is easy to imagine ourselves looking out through Carolina’s unseeing eyes."
The Blind Contessa's New Machine touches on a number of themes, including marriage, society's expectations, and the meaning of love, in the telling of Carolina's story, making it a good discussion book. Ultimately, though, it may be Wallace's use of language that will stick with you.

The Blind Contessa's New Machine was an Indie Next Pick for July 2010. For more on Carey Wallace, be sure to visit her website, where you can see some of the contessa's typed letters. If you pick this title up for a book club, be sure to visit the publisher's site for a reading group guide.

This book was featured as part of my Imprint Fridays feature and my Spotlight on Pamela Dorman Books. For more information about the imprint, please read Pamela Dorman's introductory letter, posted here on December 3, 2010.

The Blind Contessa's New Machine at Powell's
The Blind Contessa's New Machine at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Viking / Pamela Dorman Books, July 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021895


Julie P. 12/17/10, 6:55 AM  

This one sounds like a great book club book!

Veens 12/17/10, 8:34 AM  

Oh my! I can't even imagine how it must have been for her! I am putting this into my wishlist, what a unique tale.

I have never heard of this imprint, so this is just a great way to know them!

Jenn's Bookshelves 12/17/10, 10:38 AM  

Wow...sounds like an amazing book! Thanks for the post; I'm adding this one to my "must buy" list.

Nise' 12/17/10, 11:11 AM  

This was an enjoyable book and would make a great book club selection.

Sandy Nawrot 12/17/10, 11:30 AM  

I had no idea this was the story behind the typewriter! I listened to an audio recently called Homer & Langely, about two reclusive brothers and hoarders in NYC. One of the brothers, the narrator, begins to go blind, and I found the experience of reading about it very frightening and claustrophobic, but also insightful. This book sounds wonderful!

Barbara 12/17/10, 1:12 PM  

I lived with a person who gradually went blind. This is such an emotional experience with repercussions that a sighted person simply can't imagine that I'm going to read this book to see how those feelings are captured.

bermudaonion 12/17/10, 2:51 PM  

I really want to read this book!

Anonymous,  12/18/10, 12:47 AM  

Also, it's a gorgeous little book...almost square, and smaller than expected, with that beautiful cover. I just love purty books.

Rebecca Rasmussen 12/18/10, 9:17 AM  

I love this little book -- sadly, I am in Florida and haven't read more than a few pages, but what I have read I do love very much. I bought the book because it was so aesthetically pretty I couldn't help myself :) Great review! xo

Beth Hoffman 12/18/10, 9:32 AM  

This is on my TBR list, and I'm hopeful to get to it soon! Glad to know that you enjoyed it.

Sandra Gulland. 12/18/10, 10:08 AM  

This elegant novel is on my Top 10 Novels of 2010 list. I found it enchanting! I read it months ago and it still lingers.

Website: http://www.sandragulland.com/
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