Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
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.
Maria is the youngest daughter of a glass-blowing family on the island of Murano. Per her father’s will, she’s supposed to marry into the nobility, even though her older sister, Giovanna, should be the one to do so. Her life is further complicated when her family hires a glassblower, Luca, to help them, for Maria finds herself drawn to Luca in a way that definitely goes against her father’s wishes. She becomes torn between performing her duty and going after her own heart.
When I first read the synopsis for this book, I was really intrigued. I thought we’d get a lot of atmospheric prose about the art of glassblowing and the island of Murano, and I wanted to know how things would work out for Maria, and if she’d get to follow her heart or have to submit to her family’s wishes. But reading this was just sort of an indifferent experience for me; while there were some really great phrases used to describe Luca’s glassblowing ability and Maria’s feelings for the art form, there was no atmospheric prose regarding the surroundings, and I never really connected to Maria. I found that the story was just kind of flat, and it got to the point where I was only reading to finish the book (which is not very long), rather than because I was enjoying the story and wanted to see how things ended. While I liked the resolution, I sort of felt like all the problems could have been figured out well before they were, without the unnecessary heartache and stress Maria goes through. Her mother, in particular, bothered me a bit with her sudden flip flop at the end: [SPOILER] I mean, she says they have to follow her husband’s wishes, and try to find a noble suitor for Maria. The majority of the story shows how unwilling she is to go against what he wanted for Maria. And then, when they all come to her at the end, she’s just sort of like, “Oh, okay! Sure thing! Sounds good!”? I don’t know. This sort of didn’t make sense to me at all. [/SPOILER] I don’t know. I just really wasn’t impressed at all with this story, which is a shame because I really wanted to like it.
Also, this is touted as being written in verse, but it’s really not. Instead it was like the author took actual sentences and broke them up into chunks, so you’d get short phrases. For me personally, the “verse” format wasn’t useful here at all; she could have easily just written actual paragraphs and sentences and achieved the same effect.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.