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In the Hands of the Living God - by Lillian Bouzane

Publisher: Turnstone Press, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Price: CDN: $16.95

: USA: 14.95

Lillian Bouzane is an award winning poet, short story writer, essayist and novelist

In the Hands of the Living God has been nominated for a number of awards including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award which carries with it a prize of one hundred thousand Irish pounds.

Lillian lives in St. John's, Newfoundland. She will give presentations on various aspects of her novel


by Lillian Bouzane

IN THE HANDS OF THE LIVING GOD is set in 15th century Venice, at that time the richest city in the known world.Venice has grown wealthy through its control of the land-routes to the East - where the spices come from.

The great navigator Giovanni Caboto lives in Venice and is married to the wealthy and noble Venetian patriot, Mathye. Giovanni is driven by the desire to obtain a fortune to match his wife's. In that quest he spends most of his married life away from home seeking backers to support him in search of a short route to the wealth of the East. He believes this route exists across the western sea.

Many of the great personalities of the fifteenth century strut across the stage of this novel: Henry VII of England, Isabella of Castile, Ferdinand of Aragon, Michelangelo, the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, Queen Caterina of Cyprus, and many others. All are caught up in the fever of either insuring Venice continues to control the spice trade or in trying to wrench it from her.

This story is told in letters Giovanni and Mathye and their three sons exchange, and diary entries. Mathye keeps a diary.


Go out and buy this novel for yourself. For someone in your family. For a friend. You'll find no better way to treat yourself, or someone else, to a marvellous story...IN THE HANDS OF THE LIVING GOD is a superbly crafted novel, the reader is lifted up and transported back to, principally, Venice and Bristol in the late 1490's. The scenery, the tastes, the touches - they are all here. As readers, we are immersed in them....How does Bouzane accomplish this magical tour of the 1490's? She does it by letting us peek over the shoulders, as it were, of the Caboto family as they write each other letters, and over Mathye's shoulder as she makes entries in her diary. We see the letters being written and we read the letters as they are received. We witness Mathye's honest and open hand to her diary and we see the discreteness she has in relating the same information or feelings in a letter. This sense of immediacy captures us on page one and doesn't let go.Even at the very end, you'll find you want more. The Monitor

What is astonishing about this book is the way 300-plus pages of personal correspondence is made extremely exciting. (Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 13, 2001).

The letters are filled with political intrigues, lust for wealth and power, and the intoxication of discovery for its own sake: The ambition an greed Bouzane describes traverse the centuries, striking a familiar cord. The National Post


Written in a clear, crisp prose, the novel is interspersed with lyrical sections that endow it with a delightful overtone. Bouzane's allusions to historical figures such as Savonarola, Michelangelo, Petrarch, Vespucci and Columbus add a further dimension to the novel and make reading it even more pleasurable. In the Hands of the Living God is a pleasing marriage of fact and fiction; it is a novel that opens up new windows each time it is read. Newfoundland Quarterly


In the Hands of the living God... this is one of those lovely titles that promises to tie the booksellers in knots.Where to put it in the bookshelves? Fiction? History? Biography? Bestseller, perhaps? The Telegram


Bouzane's In the Hands of the Living God is truly a fine novel. Its prose is clear and crisp, with sections of Mathye's letters being quite lyrical. It is rich, too, in allusions that compel attention. CBC - TV


In the Hands of the Living God is a wonderful book, and seems to invite the same reverent attention as a long and involved piece of music or a tapestry... It is a story told peripherally, full of texture. Read it as a companion piece to Timothy Findley's Pilgrim, Read it for the expert evocation of an era. Read it for its take on exploration and trade monopolies and intrigue. If you get the chance, read it. Perimeter


Etched together, all this fine detail adds up to an accomplished work of fiction - a tale of romance, intrigue, loyalty and deception that remains at its core the story of a woman's simple desire to keep her life under her control and to grow old with her husband and sons at her side. Winnipeg Free Press


To celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland by John Cabot ( Giovanni Caboto) a replica of his ship the Matthew was built in England.

As a part of my research for the novel In the Hands of the Living God I went to Penzance and was one of the crew who took the MATTHEW from there up the Bristol Channel and into Bristol to a tumultuous welcome from the people of her home port.

In the novel I name the ship the MATHYE, after Giovanni's wife. The historian James A. Williamson, who wrote The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery under Henry VII , speculated that indeed the original ship may have carried that name and there being no equivalent in the English language, over the centuries, the name was changed from the feminine to the masculine - and so it was, the MATTHEW, rather than the MATHYE, that I crewed from Penzance to Bristol May 12-14, 1996.

There were thirteen crew members on that leg of the voyage.

The scene I described in the novel where the Captain is taking names and counting the crew did actually happen - the clever remark was made, and got translated into the novel, as did the scene where the oil spilled, except on this MATTHEW it was a gasket of the some part of the engine that blew and sent oil spilling over the new deck, rather than the cod oil I described.

Like the rest of the crew I slept in the hold of the ship, stood my watches, scraped the deck, and steered the ship with its great helm - and like Mathye in the story, I too found the weight of the helm too great for my strength and had to give it over to the fellow crew-member who had taught me the art of using the helm.

After the voyage on the Matthew I spent a number of weeks in Bristol. The Cabotos had rented a house on Nicholas Street. I walked up and down that street, studied the lie of the land as the stranger Mathye would have done. I went into churches where the Caboto family would have prayed, all the while taking as few notes as possible, to keep the writing fresh on the page for the first draft.

While I was in Bristol there was a great Festival of the Sea taking place. In the novel, I have the Caboto family take part in a similar event.

I went from Bristol to Venice; that city, especially in the area of the Grand Canal, is still very much like it was in the fifteenth century when Mathye and Giovanni lived there with their three sons. I bought a fifteenth century map of Venice, but I also sketched a canal and street map of the area around San Marco's where the Caboto's would have lived.

I went from Venice to the Vatican library and looked at maps that were drawn during the period of early navigation to the new world.

In London, Bristol and Venice I spent endless hours in their great libraries looking at fifteenth century maps of each city; reading customs rolls and other ancient documents written in Latin or Norman French.

From these journeys and from many hours of research in the library of my own university in Newfoundland, I found the story of the great navigator, Giovanni Caboto, his wife Mathye and their three sons


Turnstone Press is literary press located in Winnipeg. It is one of the most highly regarded literary presses in Western Canada. It is a consistent and respected presence within the industry. Turnstone publishes fiction, poetry, literary criticism and non-fiction.

In the Hands of the Living God was published in August 1999 and has been short listed for both the 2000 Provincial Fiction Prize (Newfoundland) and the Book Design Award (Manitoba). It has recently been nominated for the international IMPACT book award. This award carries a prize of $100,000.00.

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