Petra Durst-Benning’s The Glassblower

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The Glassblower
Petra Durst-Benning

The Glassblower

When their father suddenly passes away, three sisters must find their way in a world that is clearly not meant for independent women. After spending their entire lives helping their dad in his glassblowing business, they are unwed with no idea how to pay for the basic things, like food. But their father was well-known and well-loved and it doesn’t take long before they find themselves working in the much-busier shop of another glassblower. Now they are faced with the challenge of what feels a never-ending workday and an environment where their opinions are not only not valued, but completely banned.

What we get to see from this point on is three women taking their lives in very different directions. One is searching constantly for love and looking in all the wrong places for it. One is searching for a way to get back the stability and freedom she felt when her father was alive. One is searching for a way to pursue her artistic skill without being under the thumb of another. The story lines weave together exceptionally well and you see how differently people with the same upbringing can respond to the awful situation they land in.

Because of the diverse goals of these women, I think it can reach a very broad audience. For the hopeless-romantic sort, we have Ruth who minds not the hard work so long as she finds someone who will love and support her. Johanna turns a blind eye to love, looking instead to learn the ways of business and make something of herself. She wants to earn it all on her own. And Marie (probably my favorite), makes sacrifices to be able to continue her painting, even in an oppressive shop that most couldn’t stand. Love touches each along the way, with mixed results. But with the varied personalities, I think most women can find someone to relate to here.

The writing itself was smooth and enjoyable. There wasn’t a whole lot of care put into matching the diction to the time period, but I can forgive that. There is a lot about glassblowing and its history which I was glad to see. It’s not just an afterthought used to tie everyone together. And the story moves pretty quickly along —I didn’t have any moments where I was wishing something would just happen already. It leaves off fairly well, too. Loose strings tie together and there’s enough intrigue to make me want to read the next one (it’s the first of a trilogy).

One thing I will warn about is that this book does have quite a bit of violence against women. I won’t give away who is the victim or the bad guy, but it was a little surprising the extent it went. Considering that this book shows three women tackling serious prejudices in their small village, the violence sadly doesn’t seem out of place. But I certainly wasn’t expecting it.

Should that not be a turn-off, I would highly recommend this book. The stories of each were interesting and well-developed. The supporting cast is equally defined so you can connect with all the players. And I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress in book two.

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