The Girl of Glass is such a difficult book to categorize. It is a story about the use of magic. Mariana's father is able to add magic to the glass pieces he makes. This is also a story about family relationships and deep grief. Some reviews I have seen say age 9+ but I think this book would suit a more mature senior primary student who is ready to cope with the final scenes which I won't spoil here. It is also a story about loyalty, gifts and talents and family expectations.
Mariana lives with her father, step mother and little sister Eliza. Sadly Eliza is gravely ill and no remedy, and they have tried so many, seems able to cure her. Mariana loves her tiny fragile sister but one day she dies :
"Eliza smiled again, and then the awareness faded out of her eyes, leaving them lifeless, emptier than the shards of blue glass in the spoils bin downstairs. Marina's father leaned over, and held the bubble of molten glass to Eliza's mouth, in time to catch her last faint sighing breath."
This breath is then used to give life to a glass doll made to look exactly like Eliza. This doll, however, is not Eliza and so she is rejected by Mariana's mother. There are several violent scenes where Bianca, in her grief, lashes out at this strange glass creature. Mariana, however, loves her glass sister. She is not really a copy of Eliza. She is a creature with her own needs and opinions. Their father finally realizes he has been cruel when he made this creature and so he sells the glass doll to a wealthy neighbour. Now it is up to Mariana to rescue her new sister.
I did enjoy The girl of glass but I also found it oddly disturbing. It seemed difficult to imagine how this book might end. Being made of glass means Eliza is surely destined to break. Again I don't want to spoil the ending. I do find books about dolls are often quite disturbing. I am thinking of books like Doll Bones, The Doll (After Dark series) and Coraline. The Girl of Glass reminded me of Tilt which is a book I read quite recently. Mariana has huge artistic abilities but her father will not accept this. In his view only boys can work with glass. This issue of sex-role stereotypes was also a theme of Tilt but with a more positive outcome for Netta.
This book is one of four set in Magical Venice and I am now keen to read the other titles : The maskmaker's Daughter, The water horse and The mermaids sister.