In her backstory, the femme (love interest) alludes to a rape she experienced when she was 13. Also, the tomboy/butch protagonist is fleeing an arranged marriage that would be violent and include rape. So the threat of getting caught motivates the story's beginning. But in neither case are there depictions or descriptions of rape. In terms of other violence, there are two fistfight scenes involving the protagonist. The first one ends in a begrudging respect that leads the protagonist to find a new friend and ally. The latter one is a fight with the opening's would-be rapist. This fight ends with the protagonist triumphing by stabbing, but not killing, his opponent, in self-defence. And the climax involves a gunshot in a theater that ends in a major character's death (But not the main queer couple, and not a queer character's death). The world of the story is one in which violence is common (19th century Italian youth, exploited by the Industrial Revolution), but never graphically or callously depicted. The protagonist is full of sympathy for these youth, as s/he is one of them, and strives to make conditions better overall through their actions.
Love never comes in the form one expects.
An enthralling coming-of-age debut novel about a young woman in late 19th-century Venice who becomes a man to join the male-dominated world of the theater as a puppeteer—in the vein of Sarah Waters.
Ever since her grandfather introduced her to eight-string marionettes, Francesca has dreamed of performing from the rafters of Venice’s popular Minerva Theater. There’s just one problem: the profession is only open to men.
When her father arranges to sell her into marriage to pay off his gambling debts, Francesca flees her home. Masquerading as a male orphan named Franco, she secures an apprenticeship with the Minerva’s eccentric ensemble of puppeteers. Amid the elaborate set-pieces, the glittering limes, and the wooden marionettes, she finds a place where she belongs—and grows into the person she was always meant to be: Franco.
The past threatens to catch up with Franco when his childhood friend Annella reappears and recognizes him at the theater. Now a paid companion to an influential woman, Annella understands the lengths one must go to survive, and she promises to keep Franco’s secret. Desire sparks between them, and they find themselves playing a dangerous game against the most powerful figures of Venice’s underworld. With their lives—and the fate of the Minerva—hanging in the balance, Franco must discover who is pulling the strings before it’s too late.
Rich in historic detail and imbued with sharp social commentary, Eight Strings is a gorgeous, spellbinding debut that celebrates love, life, and art in all its forms.