It truly is an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Hourglass by Liz Heron. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric story about time, history, and about being afraid to love, die and most importantly to live.
About the Author
Liz Heron grew up in Scotland and studied at Glasgow University. After living in Paris, Madrid and Venice, she embarked on freelance life in London, contributing arts and literary journalism to Spare Rib, The New Statesman, The Listener, The Village Voice, New Society, The Guardian and many other publications.
Her literary translations from French and Italian range from Georges Bataille and Giorgio Agamben to the novels of Paola Capriolo. Her own books include Truth, Dare or Promise, a compilation of essays on childhood, and Streets of Desire, an anthology of women’s 20th-century writing on the world’s great cities, both published by Virago, as was her short-story collection, A Red River (1996).
Liz began researching her novel, The Hourglass, during her second spell of life in Venice.
About the book
Spring 2000. Paul Geddes visits Venice to research the fin-de-siècle opera singer, Esme Maguire, seeking out a cache of papers held by Eva Forrest, the widow of a collector. What he reads begins in the 1680s, moving through the city s later history of Enlightenment and Revolution, describing a life stretched beyond human possibilities.
She travels across Europe to sing in Regency London and Edinburgh, then Belle Epoque Paris, always returning to Venice, its shadows and its luminosity, its changes and its permanence.
What would it be like to live for nearly 300 years, as an exceptional being who must renew herself time after time, as those she has loved age and die? Could this story be grounded in reality or be merely the product of an ageing woman s delusion, as Paul suspects.
Warily, Eva and Paul fall in love, their tentative emotions bringing them closer until, on a trip to the Dolomites, Eva s past catches up with her.
When Paul meets Eva it seems like a moment in time that what was meant to be. He is researching a forgotten fin-de-siècle (end or turn of the century) singer called Esme Maguire and has been led to believe that a certain Eva Forrest has inherited an archive of material, which includes information on Esme.
From the very first second Eva appears to be both reluctant to part with the memorabilia and yet simultaneously wants Paul to be privy to the secrets it holds. And so begins a seductive game of unwanted desire, fascination and exploration. Eva wants Paul to start at the beginning of a story that begins many centuries ago and Paul, quite rightly so, wonders what exactly it is that Eva does or doesn’t want him to discover.
Is it about the archive or is this all some kind of strange game that a lonely woman with commitment issues wants to play in an attempt to lure Paul in? She melds into the Venetian surroundings as if she belongs there, as if she is part of the magic.
It has an essence of The Age of Adaline, but with a strong historical element to it. The author succeeds in bringing Venice and the history of Venice to the feet of her readers. All of which isn’t as simple as my prior sentence may imply. Venice has always been a city surrounded by mystique and secrets, only compounded by the fact its pathways are paved with liquid cobblestones. The majority of buildings are standing proof, albeit often crumbling, flaky and in need of restoration, of the turmoil the city and its people have been through in the previous centuries.
I loved the tale, and although it’s an often criticised phrase in reviews, it is the kind of story that should be on the big screen. Someone just needs to recognise the potential and the magic within the covers of this book.
Heron writes with intent, very well researched and thought out intent. She wants the reader to experience the magic of the Venice of old, the disparities between the internal conflicts within the city and how the city bonds to fight off external threats, and the essence of magic the masses flock to find there every year.
It’s a beautiful, atmospheric story about time, history, and about being afraid to love, die and most importantly to live. In fact perhaps in a way it’s telling us not to be afraid to live while we have the chance and grab each fleeting moment before it passes by and becomes a faded dusty memory in an old leather trunk behind a locked attic door.