The Director’s Notebook June, 2014 The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey...

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 3:49pm -- KChin

The Director’s Notebook

June, 2014

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace

For those who will be travelling this summer  and who are looking for a small, portable, delightful book that won’t take up too much space in their luggage or carry-on bag,  I would recommend The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace.

Carolina Fantoni, the blind contessa, was not always blind.  As a young girl drawn to close observation and  appreciation of the natural world, Carolina used her precious sight to observe everything in her privileged world.  As Carolina grew from childhood to early adolescence, she found a kind of shadow slowly and insidiously restricting her vision.  At first it seemed as if the darkness would limit only her peripheral vision, and she worked quietly to compensate.  Yet inexorably her field of vision grew smaller and smaller until Carolina could no longer deny that she was going blind.

Bravely, she told her mother and her father.  Neither of them believed her.  Next she told Pietro, her handsome fiancé.  He made flirtatious jokes about her being blinded by love.  Only her childhood friend Turri took her seriously and tried to offer her support and help.  But nobody had ever taken Turri seriously, considering him with his numerous inventions and passion for obscure knowledge a kind of comical, harmless buffoon.

Despite her gentle but unvarying insistence that she is going blind, Carolina is married to Pietro.  When her blindness is nearly complete, her husband and family are finally forced to believe her, although there is little they can do but treat her with overly protective and suffocating pity.  Yet Carolina is determined not to be an object of pity, and with Turri’s  help she attempts to lead as normal  a life as she can.

Turri surprises Carolina one day with an invention he has created especially for her–an early prototype of a typewriter . In fact, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is an imaginative and sensitive love story based on this true incident in history in the early 1800’s.  Yet this book goes well beyond a cool recounting of dry historical fact.

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is a novel written with astounding and deeply moving perceptiveness, bringing the reader into Carolina’s mind and heart as she deals with the terrifying reality and consequences of going blind.  Yet so courageous and brilliant is this young girl that we can only admire her as she strives to master every challenge she encounters.

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