The Gardens of Torcello

Original title: Les Jardins de Torcello

Author: Gallay, Claudie

Publication Date:

August 2024



Original language and publisher

French | Actes Sud

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction

The Gardens of Torcello

Original title: Les Jardins de Torcello

Author: Gallay, Claudie


Jess, a young French woman based in Venice, is a tourist guide who spends her time exploring every nook and cranny of the city and unearthing the myriad of stories that it contains. But one day, the son of Mrs Barnes, Pietro, who has been lending her an apartment in the city centre, decides to sell up, and so she is suddenly faced with prospect of finding a new place fast in a city besieged by tourists and rich foreigners.

Pietro puts her in touch with Maxence Darsène, one of the leading criminal lawyers in the region, who lives on the island of Torcello in a house that is somewhat crumbling but full of old-fashioned charm. Maxence entrusts her with the task of filing all the paperwork from his big cases, and it is not long before Jess becomes fascinated with this man – like everyone else in his orbit, not least his exuberant partner Colin. The relationship between the two men is both passionate and tumultuous. And then there is the taciturn watchman Elio, with a mysterious and apparently eventful past. He is never far away and seems willing to do anything for the lawyer. Together they embark on major works to protect the gardens around the house from the rising water levels, and they also replant some ancestral vines.

Les Jardins de Torcello is a homage to the lagoons and insubmersible beauty of Venice, in which Claudie Gallay conjures up in an unadorned but intensely poetic prose the ghosts of a past that is difficult to let go of.

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