A story filled with intrigue and secrets as well as colour, Damian Dibben’s new novel is filled with vivid descriptions.
A few years ago, the Royal Academy of Arts presented an exhibition that showcased the work of Renaissance artist Giorgione among others who were working in the 16th century and this latest novel by Damian Dibben very much feels like an extension of this.
This intriguing, if slightly heavy handed, story begins with Giorgione (or Zorzo as he is known in the book) struggling with debts and in need of commissions to help pay the bills – but in Venice, competition is high until he hears of a mysterious and valuable colour pigment that could help make his name as an artist. This new colour was found in the mines of wealthy businessman Jakob Frugger but soon meets his wife Sybille – a mysterious woman with plenty of secrets of her own and soon Zorzo soon finds himself caught up in a marriage that is about to break under pressure and filled with treachery and betrayal.
There is no denying that Dibben shows extraordinary attention to detail when it comes to bringing sixteenth century Venice to life – you feel as though you are walking alongside Zorzo through this dangerous journey he undertakes. It also beautifully captures the complexity of art and love and the lengths that people will go to get what they want.
However, it does have to be said by focusing so much on description, it can feel in places that the story is lost and I did find myself having to go back and re-read sections to get a real grip on what was happening. Particularly in the middle section as secrets begin to unfold and you are trying to get a sense of Sybille’s true character that is always frustratingly out of reach – even by the end.
But, on the other side of this, it is very rich in atmosphere and tone that keeps you wanting to read more as the situation Zorzo finds himself caught up in reaches its climax. You are never in doubt of Zorzo’s best intentions – he has been written very strongly as a character and for me the most fascinating and absorbing moments are when he is talking to his apprentices abut his work and what he expects them to do. You get a real sense of his passion for his work and offers an interesting insight into the way in which artists work.
Overall, I was fascinated by the colourful descriptions and the portrait of what life was like in Venice in the 16th century that Dibben evokes in The Colour Storm – but for me I feel the story itself was a little bit lost and didn’t feel completely satisfactory. However, if you enjoy immersing yourself in the world of art, you might still want to add this to your list of books to read.
By Emma Clarendon
The Colour Storm is available to buy now.