I picked up The Blind Contessa’s New Machine at a library sale. I’m always on the lookout for short but interesting fiction and it was $2 for a hardback in great condition.
It turned out to be a light, even playful, but elegant story of family, romance, and the complicated nature of love.
I was interested to see how the historical hook played out. According to Wikipedia:
Pellegrino Turri, an Italian inventor, invented a mechanical typing machine, one of the first typewriters in 1801 for his blind lover Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano. He also invented carbon paper to provide the ink for his machine.
This hook plays a minor role but the descriptions of the Contessa’s growing blindness, and her coming to terms with it, were fascinating.
For a first time novelist, Wallace is amazingly sure footed and writes with both compassion and wit. She levens the potential darkness (no pun intended) of Carolina’s blindness and bitterness with light hearted descriptions of life in early nineteenth century Italy.
I was somewhat frustrated with the ending, however, and perhaps that colored my overall take on the book. Hence, the three stars.