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The Venetian’s Wife: A Strangely Sensual Tale of a Renaissance Explorer, a Computer, and a Transformation

by Nick Bantock

The author of the very successful Griffin & Sabine trilogy, British-born B.C. islander Nick Bantock, has written The Venetian’s Wife, a novel that is part picture book, part e-mail correspondence. But if the methods of telling the story are not entirely conventional, the story itself is.

Sara Wolfe is a 26-year-old museum employee in San Francisco who has led a life without passion. After gazing upon a drawing of the Hindu god Shiva, she begins receiving e-mail messages from the mysterious Niccolo Dei Conti, who persuades Wolfe to embark on a series of journeys to recover some ancient artworks. In the course of taking these trips, Wolfe learns to let passion enter her own life, and finds out much more about Dei Conti and his unique past.

Bantock has dressed up the story (which is told in the form of computer diary entries and e-mail messages between the two main characters) with dozens of detailed illustrations, and allusions to Eastern mysticism. But dressing aside, this story is very simply about a woman who is missing something in her life, travels around the world, and finds out the answer is right under her nose at home.

The e-mail format, the illustrations, the discussions of artifacts, all add up to a pretty package. But they can’t make up for a thin story, and even thinner character development. There is little about the novel that stays with the reader.