Maria is the younger daughter of an esteemed family on the island of Murano, the traditional home for Venetian glassmakers. Though she longs to be a glassblower herself, glassblowing is not for daughters—that is her brother's work. Maria has only one duty to perform for her family: before her father died, he insisted that she be married into the nobility, even though her older sister, Giovanna, should rightfully have that role. Not only is Giovanna older, she's prettier, more graceful, and everyone loves her.
Maria would like nothing more than to allow her beautiful sister, who is far more able and willing to attract a noble husband, to take over this role for her. But they cannot circumvent their father's wishes. And when a new young glassblower arrives to help the family business and Maria finds herself drawn to him, the web of conflicting emotions grows even more tangled.
So this is one of those super rare YA books in verse. And I know you're suddenly thinking of some awful thing you had to read in high school and you're writing it off as not your cup of tea. Please don't!
I'm the first to admit books in verse appeal to me based on the story (not on the fact that they're told in verse), but once I get them they tend to sit on my shelf for awhile while I try to get myself in the mood. Then I read them and I immediately regret my reluctance and chastise myself for my narrow-minded reading ways. Seriously, every time. It's ridiculous, you would think I'd learn. But apparently not.
Sisters of Glass is a beautifully told, lyrical story based on a small historical fact from 1487. Hemphill spins a luscious story from this small detail, weaving in family dynamics, social customs and historical details of the fabled island of Murano and Venice. It's fascinating and it's romance is lovely in a very understated way. The imagery is beautiful, and the verse is such a refreshing way to tell a story. It's like a palette cleanser from all my other reads.
Two Suitable Suitors?
How is a girl to choose
between a green dress
and a blue?
One pleases your family,
the other pleases you.
One man appreciates beauty,
is kind, and fulfills your duty.
The other creates glass,
but what of the future if he knows no past?
To follow the head
or the heart,
this is the question
that rips me apart.
At 150 pages, Sisters of Glass is a small commitment. It's an enchanting tale, packaged in a beautiful binding, and if you are feeling adventurous and want to branch out in your reading you can't go wrong by starting with it.
Sisters in Glass, by Stephanie Hemphill
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, March 27th, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher