The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Lucia, by Andrea De Robilant

I think it would be fun to discover a scandalous — or even interesting — ancestor and then write a book about that person. Andrea di Robilant has done just that by telling the story of Lucia Mocenigo, his great-great-great-great-grandmother. By virtue of being married to Alvise Mocenigo, of a powerful Venetian family, Lucia traveled across Europe and witnessed such events as Napoleon’s conquest of Venice, as well as his defeat in 1814.

Lucia herself had some compelling traits: she was determined at her core, her devotion to her sister and her son drove many of her actions, and she certainly didn’t lack opinions. She was also insecure and a bit of a nag in my opinion, which didn’t help her marriage to the perpetually philandering Alvise. It was clearly a marriage of convenience, but that was a message she seemed to have missed. Still, she showed elements of being a strong, independent woman when not fretting about her family. For example, after Alvise ordered her to take charge of one of his rural properties, Lucia raised pigs and sheep, which I found remarkable for a woman who had previously spent her entire life in the city. In fact, she and Alvise quarreled when she decided to raise cattle as well. Later, while hovering over her adult son and his disturbingly controlling tutor in Paris, she took up the study of biology, chemistry, and other sciences at de Jardin des Plantes, working with esteemed professors to achieve a certificate in botany. Lucia had an intense affair with Austrian military officer, rented much of her home to Lord Byron in a tempestuous landlord/tenant relationship, and generally showed a knack for being wherever history was made. Despite her missteps with Alvise, I found her shoulder a lively perch from which to view the fall of Venice and other Napoleonic era events. If you read history books at all, I recommend this one.

As for the treatment of animals in the book, I will toss out my usual caveat that as times change, so do attitudes towards animals — and we treat them better than our predecessors, as a rule. Horses, being a mode of transportation first and foremost, were viewed as somewhat expendable, for example. They also died on the battlefield along with the men who rode them. However, these situations are merely mentioned, not portrayed, so I am going to declare this book SAFE for animal lovers.

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May 27, 2009 - Posted by | Book Reviews, history | , , ,

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