Minguillo's behaviour goes further and further beyond the pale and his chief target is his younger sister Marcella - the child for whom Minguillo has been disinherited. With only servants, an irascible artist and a lowly doctor to protect her, Marcella will need all the goodness in her soul to withstand her brother's onslaughts. Can she survive being crippled, declared insane, and sold into the clutches of the vicious Sor Loreta?
Could I just do a little dance? Would you mind? I loved ''The Book of Human Skin''. It's truly wonderful - vivid, immediate, clever, peopled with wonderful characters, the sweep of history and the power of landscape. When you finish it, you really do want to stand up, do a little jig, and say, hey, that was fantastic.
It's about skin - how a person's life is written upon it, how other people get under it, how we use and abuse it. Minguillo collects skin. Doctor Santa takes care of skin. Sor Loreta abuses hers in holy anorexia and scourging. And Marcella's skin is luminous enough to show her core of radiant inner beauty.
It's a massive book in scope, strength and history and it took me a week to read it - not because it was dense or difficult, but because rushing would have felt like such a disservice. The research is absolutely awesome and there's such a powerful intelligence behind it, but these things don't interfere with the characters or narrative and there's never a feeling - as there is with some books - that you might not really be quite good enough to read it. Lovric bundles up her cleverness and her knowledge and uses it to delight, not confound. Fans will be glad to learn that the artist Cecilia Cornaro gets a great supporting role - and indeed there isn't a character that will leave you unmoved. My favourite voice was Gianni's - rough, goodhearted, self-deprecating, and the kind of friend we all wish we had.