This brief, but charming tale is based on the creation of the first typewriter, built by Pellegrino Turri, in 1808, for his blind friend, the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono.
The book begins with Carolina, the resourceful Contessa, as a young, perhaps willful, very independent young child who strikes out on her own, whenever she is able, to her lakeside cottage where she escapes from the world, creating a world of her own, in her mind’s eye. As a young child, she meets Turri, a bit of an eccentric young man, considered a ne’er do well, who lives in his world of dreams and inventions rather than remain anchored to the world of reality. Through the years their unusual friendship blossoms and he helps to shape her life.
Meanwhile, betrothed to the most eligible bachelor around, shortly before her wedding Carolina discovers that she is losing her sight. As she loses more and more of her vision she commits all she can to her memory, which will later sail her away to a world of fantasy in which she can still see in her dreams, and therefore can more easily face the darkness descending.
Her bravery in facing this affliction is admirable and as her other senses improve with the impending blindness, so does her confidence and emotional health. One can truly empathize with the loneliness and the confusion of facing a world in which all landmarks have disappeared, in which she, who does not believe in “blind faith” must now have blind faith in others.
This charming novel is both tender and mysterious. There are secret trysts and the suspicion of things that go bump in the night. Unfaithfulness is coupled with moments of extreme devotion and although it may seem ambiguous at times, it is always rich in imagination and flows smoothly.
The characters are well developed and the descent into blindness is dealt with almost poetically. The courage with which the Contessa faces her fate is admirable and creative. The inability of most people to deal with her malady is evidenced most emphatically by her mother’s comment when she learns her daughter is going blind. More or less she tells her, oh well, there is not much to see anyway. She faces her catastrophe alone.