Monday, August 18, 2014

Signa by Ouida

Signa by OuidaWOW...

This is an amazing book. I can't do it justice or even put into words how good it is.

As the title suggests, this is a story of Signa, an illigitimate orphan boy who is saved from death during a flood when he is about one year old. His two uncles find him clinging to the breast of his dead mother, and, afraid that the villagers might accuse the two brothers of murder, (its a long story), they let the floodwaters take her body away and tell everyone they found the unknown baby alone in the field.

The boy is raised by his Uncle Lippo's family who mistreat him. But bruises can do no lasting harm to Signa for his head is in the clouds where the very angels whisper sweet music to him. He hears it in the wind, in the rustling apricot trees, the grapevines and the hills.

While singing his songs or playing his lute he is content. Then one day he sees an old violin for sale in a shop window and asks to hold it ....

Call him a protege, a genius, an artist, it makes no difference; for music is the very lifeblood and soul of Signa. But his kind uncle Bruno is deaf to Signa's genius. To him it is merely child's play and so Bruno slaves for nine years, building Signa a future there in the Tuscan hills, farming. When Signa kindly rejects his uncle's plans for him, Bruno stomps on Signa's prized violin, destroying it.

There is so much more to this story. There are his childhood playmates, one kind and good peasant girl named Palma and her beautiful but selfish sister Gemma (whom Signa loves). Palma grows up, slaving for her father and idle brothers, never complaining, while Gemma runs away at age 10, seeking a life of luxury ...

The story covers about 25 years so you learn what comes of all these characters and how their lives intertwine for good and for bad as well as the extremely high cost of fame.

In many ways this book feels like an opera put into novel form and has an almost tragic fairytale cadence. Its beautifully poetic and emotive and while it doesn't neccesarily have a HEA, the story had some surprising twists and turns that were brilliantly thought out and I was ultimately satisfied. It really could only have ended in the way it did. Its opera, afterall.
And I love it.

Recommended for lovers of chunky, old fashioned, flowery, melodramatic reads.

* Signa is available for free on Openlibrary but I suggest paying the $2.99 for this particular version on Amazon. The Openlibrary epub version is so riddled with typos it is almost unreadable.
If buying the antique book (have fun with that!) be careful you're buying the complete 512 page book as it was often split into three volumes.

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