An enthralling coming-of-age debut novel about a young woman in late 19th-century Venice who becomes a man to join the male-dominated world of the theater as a puppeteer—in the vein of Sarah Waters.
Ever since her grandfather introduced her to eight-string marionettes, Francesca has dreamed of performing from the rafters of Venice’s popular Minerva Theater. There’s just one problem: the profession is only open to men.
When her father arranges to sell her into marriage to pay off his gambling debts, Francesca flees her home. Masquerading as a male orphan named Franco, she secures an apprenticeship with the Minerva’s eccentric ensemble of puppeteers. Amid the elaborate set-pieces, the glittering limes, and the wooden marionettes, she finds a place where she belongs—and grows into the person she was always meant to be: Franco.
The past threatens to catch up with Franco when his childhood friend Annella reappears and recognizes him at the theater. Now a paid companion to an influential woman, Annella understands the lengths one must go to survive, and she promises to keep Franco’s secret. Desire sparks between them, and they find themselves playing a dangerous game against the most powerful figures of Venice’s underworld. With their lives—and the fate of the Minerva—hanging in the balance, Franco must discover who is pulling the strings before it’s too late.
Rich in historic detail and imbued with sharp social commentary, Eight Strings is a gorgeous, spellbinding debut that celebrates love, life, and art in all its forms.
Margaret DeRosia is a writer, editor, and historian originally from Michigan. She has taught film, literature, and digital media at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz, Sonoma State University, the California College of Art, and Western University. Eight Strings is her debut novel. She currently resides in Toronto with her wife and two cats.
“A sensitive, insightful debut in the story of Francesca, a turn-of-the-century orphan who escapes a brutal arranged marriage by donning breeches, taking the name Franco, and joining Venice’s male-only marionette theatre. Francesca blossoms into a new sense of self as Franco, finding love and purpose among the raucous puppeteers, but will everything be discovered when a dangerous plot embroils the theatre? Eight Strings wraps a nuanced discussion of identity and gender roles in a riotous, rollicking adventure of a tale!” — KATE QUINN, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Diamond Eye