Drowning the Gowns by Peter Hollywood review
Drowning the Gowns
At the turn of the 19th century, an Irish artist living in Venice spots a famous American writer dumping a batch of gowns into the Laguna in the middle of the night. Mystified by this, Reuben Ross tracks down the writer, later rather clumsily revealed to be Henry James, and accompanies him on his jaunts around Venice in search of a lost love and her secrets. The city comes to life with Hollywood’s atmospheric writing, but the opening premise eventually falls flat in a novella that doesn’t seem to have much of a point in terms of story. Characters appear at random – a policeman on the hunt for Irish nationalists, a runaway Fenian, a stereotypical journalist, a rich American debutante – and are shuffled off just as quickly. When the mystery surrounding the gowns fizzles out, the book inexplicably moves to Ireland as it creaks to a close.