Word Spelunking

Sisters of Glass - Stephanie Hemphill THREE FOUR WORDS: Good Story, Wrong Execution MY REVIEW: I really had no expectations (positive or negative) at all when I starting reading Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill, and while I actually enjoyed much of the story itself, I think the overall execution was lacking.Sisters of Glass is a historical fiction novel, written in verse, that centers around a Venetian family of glassblowers that live on the island of Murano. Before he died, Angelo Barovier declared that his youngest and favorite daughter would marry a senator, even though this honor and responsibility should really go to Giovanna, the eldest daughter. Maria does not wish to marry a senator and would rather be a glassmaker like her brothers, but as her sixteenth birthday looms, Maria’s mother begins to seek a suitable husband for her younger daughter in order to secure the family’s finances. All the attention placed on Maria puts a strain on her once close relationship with her older sister. And things get even more complicated with the arrival of Luca, the new glassblower.I don’t read much historical fiction, but I did enjoy the world and time that Hemphill has described and explored in this novel. And I was truly intrigued by the story itself and found myself very invested in the complicated and rocky relationship between the two Barovier sisters. Hemphill does a great job of creating very tangible emotions throughout the book. Both Maria’s feelings of inadequacy compared to her older sister and Giovanna’s jealousy of her little sister are easily felt and wonderfully explored. Hemphill has given both girls such complex and intriguing layers and I found both characters dimensional. And I easily connected with both sisters and found myself sympathetic of each sister’s turmoil- Maria’s fears of disappointing her family and Giovanna’s heartache from feeling unloved and not worthy. My biggest issue with this book is the way it has been executed. I love poetry and I love books written in verse, and while the book claims to be written in verse, and really isn’t. Instead of being made up of individual, yet interconnecting poems, it seems as if the book’s prose has simply been broken up and manipulated to look like a bunch of “poems”. While there is some truly beautiful and powerful imagery in this book, and Hemphill’s writing is quite lovely, the “verse” style just feels lacking and forced. I think the book would have worked better if it had been written in traditional prose. While I think Maria and Giovanna are nicely developed, all of the other characters are lacking serious development. Perhaps the rest of the Barovier family isn’t meant to be important to the story as a whole, but I do think the character of Luca is significant and I’m disappointed with how flat his character is. I wanted to get caught up in Maria’s feelings for Luca, but found the whole romance hard to believe in simply because the Luca she falls for is not the Luca presented to readers. And by that, I mean it seems as if Hemphill must have created this swoon-worthy, compelling Luca in her head and when she wrote about Maria’s feelings for him, it is this imaginary Luca that she refers to, yet somehow she forgot to introduce this guy to her readers…does that make any sense at all?!The ending is pretty predictable, but satisfying nonetheless.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: I feel like there’s so much potential within this book for a romantic, emotional story but the chosen form and execution limited this potential greatly. Sisters of Glass has an interesting enough premise and two intriguing female characters, but a lack of character and story development, along with the execution, kept me from loving this book.Read more reviews at Word Spelunking

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