Stone Virgin
A mysterious sculpture of a beautiful and erotic Madonna holds the key to the Fornarini family's secrets. When Raikes, a conservation expert, tries to restore her, he is swept under the statue's spell and swept under the spell of the seductive Chiara Litsov, a member of the Fornarini family now married to a famous sculptor. Raikes finds himself losing all moral grounding as his love for statue and woman intertwine in lust and murder.

Stone Virgin Details

TitleStone Virgin
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 17th, 1995
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
ISBN-139780393313093
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Cultural, Italy, Mystery, Art

Stone Virgin Review

  • Amy Plum
    January 1, 1970
    The history. The art. The romance. The city (of Venice). The mystery that sucks you right in and carries you along until the last page. What a wonderful book.
  • Aneca
    January 1, 1970
    The Stone Virgin is set in Venice in 3 different periods in time, the 1400s, the 1700s and in present day. The story opens in the 15th century with the artist facing his accusers on a murder charge but most of the novel is set present day where Simon Raikes is restoring a statue of a Madonna, a Virgin Mary, and while he works on it he is intrigued by who made the statue and what happened to the statue over the years. I thought it interesting that there 3 stories in 3 different periods all direct The Stone Virgin is set in Venice in 3 different periods in time, the 1400s, the 1700s and in present day. The story opens in the 15th century with the artist facing his accusers on a murder charge but most of the novel is set present day where Simon Raikes is restoring a statue of a Madonna, a Virgin Mary, and while he works on it he is intrigued by who made the statue and what happened to the statue over the years. I thought it interesting that there 3 stories in 3 different periods all directly related with the statue, or the men interest in the statue. All of them seem to focus on the sexual relationships the men had with the women in their life and the feelings, good and bad, that those evoked. I was expecting to find more interesting desciptions of Venice in those different periods and I didn't for which I'm sorry. I do understand that art appeals to the senses but lately it seems that most of the art related books I read are more than sensual, they are downright erotic, I think that's okay in a story well told but I'm starting to wonder if this is a pattern in today's art related literature...I did like the mystery approach, who made the statue? What happened to him? Especially after that intriguing start. But Raikes affair and indeed his interactions with his colleagues take too much space and I kept wishing we got back to mystery.As I mentioned in my review of Dunant's The Birth of Venus maybe it's just that these are not my type of books. I will definitely have to think twice before picking up another such as these.Grade: 3.5/5
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  • Bettie
    January 1, 1970
    Review Here
  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    Simon Raikes is restoring an enigmatic stone Madonna that graces the front of a medieval church in Venice. As he prepares his work, he is overtaken by visions, and he soon becomes obsessed with discovering the history of the unusual, subtly erotic statue. Simon’s own fate becomes inextricably enmeshed with that of the original sculptor, and he finds himself making choices that would previously been abhorrent to him.Stone Virgin is a complex, proficient morality tale that examines the dark unders Simon Raikes is restoring an enigmatic stone Madonna that graces the front of a medieval church in Venice. As he prepares his work, he is overtaken by visions, and he soon becomes obsessed with discovering the history of the unusual, subtly erotic statue. Simon’s own fate becomes inextricably enmeshed with that of the original sculptor, and he finds himself making choices that would previously been abhorrent to him.Stone Virgin is a complex, proficient morality tale that examines the dark underside of desire, whether it be carnality, pride, ambition, or cupidity. Within these pages, the age old adage that history repeats itself plays out in the lives of individuals, rather than on the world stage. How easy it is to succumb to temptation when one’s secret heart’s desire is within reach.
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  • Jacquelynn Luben
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book, but with reservations. I felt the author was asking us to take on too much. Or maybe I should say that he was too ambitious in taking on so much. Either way, there was so much information that it was difficult to take it all in. The names of all the people, more difficult because they were surnames, rather than first names; the Italian both names and places and little bits of dialogue; and the three different stories, set in different time periods, all contributed to the con I enjoyed this book, but with reservations. I felt the author was asking us to take on too much. Or maybe I should say that he was too ambitious in taking on so much. Either way, there was so much information that it was difficult to take it all in. The names of all the people, more difficult because they were surnames, rather than first names; the Italian both names and places and little bits of dialogue; and the three different stories, set in different time periods, all contributed to the confusion. The diary of the old man, Ziani was very detailed, and not helped by the change in font in the book. I was tempted to skip some of it. Barry Unsworth gave us a clue right at the end - the power of three. Yes, it is sometimes useful to divide novels up into three parts, or three stories, but I couldn’t always remember what had happened before, when moving on to between the stories. The plot is that Simon goes to Venice to clean up a corroded statue of the Madonna, and becomes intrigued about her history. The two back stories include the Madonna’s history - telling what happened to the sculptor, his love affair with his beautiful model, how his statue was placed in an ignominious position away from most eyes, and how she once again received acclaim and was moved to a position more suited to her beauty. There is also the question of Simon’s newly discovered brain condition. Is he seeing things that don’t exist, or is there something supernatural going on? This is left open for the reader to decide. I found the writing a bit too detached, and couldn’t get close enough to the protagonists, certainly not enough to be moved by their respective plights. I think the book would have benefited by the removal of some of the wordiness, perhaps a little less flesh on the bones. But the bones of the story were good. I wanted to find out the answers, despite the - to me - ambiguous ending. 7 out of 10 perhaps and 3 to 4 stars.
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  • Chana
    January 1, 1970
    Italy in 1432, a Madonna statue has been commissioned and is being carved in Venice by a relatively unknown but talented sculptor.The book is written in three different times: 1432 when the Madonna statue was being carved, 1793 when the statue is in a private garden, and 1972 when the statue, which has since been installed on a church property, is being restored.In 1432 the sculptor chooses a whore as his model and they get along very well. Unfortunately she gets murdered and the sculptor is acc Italy in 1432, a Madonna statue has been commissioned and is being carved in Venice by a relatively unknown but talented sculptor.The book is written in three different times: 1432 when the Madonna statue was being carved, 1793 when the statue is in a private garden, and 1972 when the statue, which has since been installed on a church property, is being restored.In 1432 the sculptor chooses a whore as his model and they get along very well. Unfortunately she gets murdered and the sculptor is accused of the crime. In 1793 we hear the memories of an old man as he writes his exploits of adulterous sex with the lady of the house where the statue is in the garden.In 1972 the man who is cleaning the statue is inexplicably aroused all the time. He also seems to have epileptic incidents, or are they? And he is attracted to the wife of a metal sculptor. The name Fornarini keeps coming up. And there is some element of paranormal here although the idea is not developed or explained.The main idea here is the possibility that an inanimate object can absorb the feelings, actions and memories of the creator and those involved with the creator of said object, which then can effect the people who come into contact with the object later.The book was not uninteresting, the writing was not bad. It is one of those books that seemed to have the potential to work but somehow didn't.
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  • Peter
    January 1, 1970
    A lovely but frustrating book. The story cuts between three time periods but I found that just as each historical section got up a head of steam it would end and we were back with Simon Rakes in modern Venice. The Rakes story is worthwhile and the final third of it is the strongest part of the novel for me but it takes so long to get there that I twice put the book aside completely before coming back to it. There is an enormous amount of time spent on the minutiae of stone restoration and the ef A lovely but frustrating book. The story cuts between three time periods but I found that just as each historical section got up a head of steam it would end and we were back with Simon Rakes in modern Venice. The Rakes story is worthwhile and the final third of it is the strongest part of the novel for me but it takes so long to get there that I twice put the book aside completely before coming back to it. There is an enormous amount of time spent on the minutiae of stone restoration and the effects of atmosphere on materials. It certainly makes one believe in Rakes as an expert and fleshes him out as a character but it is at the cost of the book's pace. We are forced to live off his investigating the mystery of the statue's origins (which frankly I found not all that mysterious given how much we the reader witness for ourselves in those sections). Finally Rakes catches up with our own knowledge and we get a slightly rushed and unsatisfactorily concluded romance/murder plot far too close to the book's end. It feels to me as if the Rakes story has too much scene setting before reaching its crisis and several characters come and go without adding anything much (the Tintoretto people and the various experts Rakes speaks to could probably have been consolidated somewhat) and we don't get enough time with the more important characters like Chiara, Litsov and Lattimer. I'm also beginning to see a pattern with Mr Unsworth's female characters (and perhaps his male protagonists too). The echoes between Rakes/Chiara and the couples in the historical sections were clearly deliberate, but there was also more than a bit of Thurston / Alicia I thought, from The Ruby in her Navel.
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  • Imogen Trupinic
    January 1, 1970
    After being impressed by Songs of the Kings a few years back, I was pretty disappointed with this one. Honestly, the look into the world of art restoration was the most fascinating thing about it; the rest was a pretentious look at male sexual arousal with a bit of paranormal activity thrown in. The modern-day murder mystery might have offered a bit more variety too, so too bad it didn't come in till towards the end of the book and then is pretty glossed over! Finally, the protagonist is an unsy After being impressed by Songs of the Kings a few years back, I was pretty disappointed with this one. Honestly, the look into the world of art restoration was the most fascinating thing about it; the rest was a pretentious look at male sexual arousal with a bit of paranormal activity thrown in. The modern-day murder mystery might have offered a bit more variety too, so too bad it didn't come in till towards the end of the book and then is pretty glossed over! Finally, the protagonist is an unsympathetic and pompous character who glorifies the "perfect" female body through objectifying it, perhaps (it is indicated) as a result of his work. I wonder how many art-restorers have read this book and subsequently punched the air in frustration? I didn't enjoy how the author decided to concentrate on the thinking of this character rather than the actual plot. It was tiresome.Spare yourselves. Only read this if you're too curious.
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  • Joyce
    January 1, 1970
    Entertaining story about a man who cleans statues for a living who gets all wrapped up in trying to figure out what happened to the sculptor and model for the 15th century Madonna he is reviving. Really gives one the feel for Venice. Gives the city an air of mystery unlike anything else I've ever read with the same setting. There is whimsy and deceit. There are questions about mixing art and reality. All in all, quite satisfying.
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  • Vi Walker
    January 1, 1970
    A lovely, intriguing, erotic, mysterious book concerning a 500+ year old beautiful Venetian sculpture of the Virgin Mary at the time of her visitation by the Angel Gabriel. Set mostly in 1975 when a lot of restoration work was going on in Venice a young man restoring the sculpture to its original beauty becomes entangled in her history. Very good book!
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  • Una (EX) precaria tra i libri
    January 1, 1970
    Review at https://precaria-tra-i-libri.blogspot...
  • Florina
    January 1, 1970
    dnf at 50%Well researched and even poetic at times, but too dense and self-important for my taste. I got the main gist, and I think that's enough for me.
  • Mrs. Danvers
    January 1, 1970
    I'm rounding up from 3.5. There were some wonderful things about this book but overall I think it was more slight than what I have come to expect from Unsworth.
  • Bogdan
    January 1, 1970
    Structurally ambitious and yet it falls short of its true potential, spending more time with, arguably, the weakest plot-line. From a literary point of view, the author uses too much the motive of the virgin-whore, trying to combine this with some form of the Pygmalion myth and with a dash of supernatural. From all the novel, as others reviews have stated, permeates a strong sexuality, sometimes misplaced.Nevertheless, the author did his homework very well, presenting us with a true to life Veni Structurally ambitious and yet it falls short of its true potential, spending more time with, arguably, the weakest plot-line. From a literary point of view, the author uses too much the motive of the virgin-whore, trying to combine this with some form of the Pygmalion myth and with a dash of supernatural. From all the novel, as others reviews have stated, permeates a strong sexuality, sometimes misplaced.Nevertheless, the author did his homework very well, presenting us with a true to life Venice, although at times it seems a bit septic. I also liked very much the talks about sculpting and restoring a work of art. Finally, Stone Virgin is an uneven work, elegantly written, yet marked with a few strange artistic choices.
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  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    This is my second Unsworth novel and I'm quite impressed. This man has "the" talent for writing. Excellent novel!From back cover:"In its romantic and dangerous tour of history, Barry Unsworth's Stone Virgin rivals A. S. Byatt's Possession. A mysterious sculpture of a beautiful and erotic Madonna holds the key to the Fornarini family's secrets. When Simon Raikes, a conservation expert, tries to restore her, he is swept under the statue's spell and also swept under the spell of the seductive Chiar This is my second Unsworth novel and I'm quite impressed. This man has "the" talent for writing. Excellent novel!From back cover:"In its romantic and dangerous tour of history, Barry Unsworth's Stone Virgin rivals A. S. Byatt's Possession. A mysterious sculpture of a beautiful and erotic Madonna holds the key to the Fornarini family's secrets. When Simon Raikes, a conservation expert, tries to restore her, he is swept under the statue's spell and also swept under the spell of the seductive Chiara Litsov, a member of the Fornarini family now married to a famous sculptor. Raikes finds himself losing all moral grounding as his love for statue and woman intertwine in lust and murder."
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  • Kay
    January 1, 1970
    Stone Virgin is written by a Booker Prize winning author. I found his writing so dense that it was difficult to get through the book. The plot, when you could find it, was interesting but could have been achieved in about half the pages. His descriptions were repetitive, he kept describing (three times to my count) a minor character in detail as cherubic. Once maybe, three times not necessary. I won't read any other books by this author even the one that won the Booker Prize, Sacred Hunger.
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  • Fiona Van
    January 1, 1970
    I have just finished this lovely book. It is not very accessible -Unsworth is a writer who demands a lot of his readers, the tale is dense and complicated and the language is quite difficult in places, but it is immensely rewarding, moving from renaissance Italy in the fifteenth century till the late nineteen seventies. It is a story of artistic endeavour, love, obsession and murder. It is well worth persevering and I hope you will find, as I did, that it seizes your attention and makes you invo I have just finished this lovely book. It is not very accessible -Unsworth is a writer who demands a lot of his readers, the tale is dense and complicated and the language is quite difficult in places, but it is immensely rewarding, moving from renaissance Italy in the fifteenth century till the late nineteen seventies. It is a story of artistic endeavour, love, obsession and murder. It is well worth persevering and I hope you will find, as I did, that it seizes your attention and makes you involved with the characters and that you will come away thinking new thoughts
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  • Yve-Anne
    January 1, 1970
    Great classic read. Initially based in 1432, the language is accordingly stilted to fit the era. But then the reader is taken forward to the 1970's where parallels between the past and the present seem to occur as the sculptor Raikes works on restoring a Venetian Madonna. The story is on the one hand an erotic love story and on the other hand a mystery. About 50 pages into the book and you want to find out exactly what happens-in the past and in the present.
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  • Julie Christine
    January 1, 1970
    This story deals with the mystery surrounding the origins and subsequent movement of a Virgin Mary carved in the 1400s. It went back and forth between the contemporary (1970s) restoration of the statue and the 1700, with the beginning and ending set in the 1400s. I really like the contemporary story, but couldn't determine why the 1700s sections were even necessary; the story was a giant non-sequitur. Still, it was a good yarn- set in moody and gorgeous Venice.
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  • Jackie Small
    January 1, 1970
    Had a 'written by a man for men' feel for me. Some titillating ott sex scenes. Story took a long time to get going but become more interesting in the last third. Some stuff did not ring true though making it slightly unbelievable at times. Other stuff seemed to add nothing to the plot or storyline.
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  • Karlan
    January 1, 1970
    The plot is set in the 15th, 18th and 20th centuries in Venice and will make me look more closely at statues and wonder who the model was and what happened to her. The pace picks up toward the end as a restorer falls in love with a live model while working on a 15th c Madonna. There is mystery and romance but I've preferred later novels by this fine writer.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    This book travels between past and present in Venice exploring a statue and all that it has "seen" and all that it has been seen as. From its creation through it's restoration. Very good writing, and easy to digest history.
  • Ainny Klover
    January 1, 1970
    A well-written, significantly more intellectual and believable twin of Dan Brown's works. It belongs to a popular "a little bit of art, a little bit of history, and a little bit of crime/suspense" genre. A page-turner leaving a sweet aftertaste but not much else.
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  • Boyce
    January 1, 1970
    If you like historical mysteries, this could be for you. We have a Madonna carved in 1432, hanky-panky in 1793 and real-life restoration, love and lust in 1972. The plot is a bit convoluted for my taste.
  • Velda
    January 1, 1970
    It is the first book that I have read for fun in years. I loved how the different time periods were woven together. Fairly intense at times, and there were intricate details. Overall, it was very captivating.
  • Alva Ware-Bevacqui
    January 1, 1970
    If I could, I'd give this 3.5 stars, but I can't so, I'll opt for 3 stars. This book was very good but something didn't work for me. Very cool look into the art restoration world though and the characters were compelling. Just felt like a lot was left unsaid (or maybe I just didn't get it).
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  • Dvora
    January 1, 1970
    The plot could have been good, but I didn't think it was carried out well. It seemed to have pieces that didn't fit together, and characters who were hollow. For a story set in Venice of long ago, I prefer In the Company of the Courtesan.
  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    A historical mystery told in three time periods (the 1400s, the 1700s and present day) about a beautiful stone Madonna and the people who fall under her spell. It's somewhat complex, if not complicated, and maybe a little convoluted; definitely too slow for me to really enjoy.
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  • Velvetink
    January 1, 1970
    $2. at vinnies. Different cover. will scan it later when reading.
  • Nat Bond
    January 1, 1970
    Another masterpiece by Barry Unsworth. What a satisfying writer!
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