Heart or mind


No crimes, murders or slaughter, yet In Lucia’s eyes is a gripping and thrilling book as if it were a thriller. The well-known Dutch writer Arthur Japin, inspired by the memoirs of Casanova, wanted to throw light upon his first love Lucia, and tell her side of the story.

The first time I read this book, with the original title Een schitterend gebrek (literally: a brilliant shortcoming), was six years ago. I was captured by the beautiful story and the way Lucia turns ailment into strength. The second time I read it, I was moved by her loneliness. And yet I sometimes found myself feeling angry about the way she chooses to live.

As early as the first page, Lucia warns us about the upcoming misery, but at the same time, she is convinced that it wasn’t all for nothing. She compares herself with a stray dog who has managed to survive, who is thrown in a sack into a river but nevertheless still has the most important gift – the talent of loving.

While her husband-to-be, Casanova, is away, Lucia develops the pocks that ruin her face. In the 18th century looks were everything in the upper social circles of Venice, and could make or break a career. To enable Casanova to become a diplomat, Lucia decides to leave everything behind and give up the love of her life. She disappears, letting Casanova think she left him for someone else. Years later they meet in Amsterdam. She now is a well-known courtesan and chooses to wear a veil. He doesn’t recognise her and tries to seduce her. She doesn’t enlighten him.

The dialogues between the two, mostly about love, are unparalleled and sharp. Lucia vacillates on the verge of exposing herself and maintaining her secret. She constantly tries to let Casanova know who she is by asking him impertinent questions about his first love, and whether he left her behind with a broken heart. Rationally, Lucia doesn’t want him to know; but emotionally, she does. Her constant battle between heart and mind is food for thought.

By the end of the book, you start to wonder what will happen and what Lucia’s plan is. And that is exactly the puzzle: the end of the story. Of course I am not going to give away how the book ends.


Welmoed Hoogvorst

In this series, three reviewers write about their favourite books, recent or not so recent

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