Nick Bantock,
The Venetian's Wife
(Raincoast Books, 1996)

Nick Bantock's The Venetian's Wife is a beautiful, well-wrought tale of love and art. Once again combining the mediums of prose and painting, he pieces together this "strangely sensual tale of a renaissance explorer, a computer, and a metamorphosis."

For Sara Wolfe, it all started with a thought-consuming fascination with a drawing of the cosmic dance of the Hindu god Shiva when the walls between past and present came tumbling down. Before long, she receives an e-mail with an intriguing job offer to locate the last few missing pieces of a famous Vedic art collection belonging to a 15th century Italian adventurer. Strangely, her employer, known to her only as Mr. Conti, wishes to communicate by computer only.

The rather ghostly Mr. Conti is a mystery all his own, conveying to Sara his own calm, controlled, yet imperative urgency in finding the missing pieces of the art collection. While his motives remain unclear, Sara soon becomes preoccupied with the search for these mysterious missing artifacts and the experience of her own sensual growth and transformation. However, the hunt for lost art that she has chosen to embark upon is of a greater scale than Sara could have imagined. She will become enwrapped in a quest for renewal, art and a love spanning centuries.

The integration of Vedic art and tradition into this story weaves this story together into a satisfying whole. Sara's physical/metaphysical awakening is reflected in the recurring theme of the celestial and spiritual union of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. Throughout her adventures runs the strong undercurrent of influence held by the Venetian's wife over her personal development.

We follow the story through Sara's beautifully illustrated diary, eerily eclectic in taste, and also through the e-mails between her and her employer N. Conti. Nick Bantock lends his own richly styled art to this fascinating story, laying before us the legacy of The Venetian's Wife.

[ by Melinda Lau ]



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