I have a new passion for Venice after reading this, my other Venice exposures via Mann et al fading away under Winterson’s gloomy light. The passions evoked in this book are for Napoleon, God, gambling, and of the romantic sort. Henri is a young French lad swept up in the hysteria of Bonaparte, becomes his chicken-strangling server on the battlefield, eventually tromping back from Russia with Villanelle, the web-footed Venice-native card-shark cross-dresser whose husband coincidentally turns out to be the cook who despised Henri on the war front. A book in four sections, we first meet Henri, then Villanelle, then their intermingling, then their separation as he admits to killing the cook/husband and is installed on the island for the insane. Despite her attempts to free him, he prefers to remain imprisoned.
Some great words on what comes after love is over:
Disgust is close and dignity is far away. The hate is not only for the once loved, it’s for yourself too; how could you ever have loved him?