What do you do when the unspeakable has been done to you? Who do you reach out to when there is nobody? Where do you go when you no longer have a home? How do you protect yourself when you dare not let them see your tears? That’s when you cry to heaven.
This is the situation fifteen year old Tonio Treschi faces, the hero in Anne Rice’s monstrously dark novel, Cry To Heaven.
Set in Venice, Naples, and Rome, the author uses lush prose to present to us the Italian opera of the 18th century, complete with its castrato. Let me include a little side note here. Rice doesn’t mince words when it comes to difficult subject matter. Of course the opera, particularly the Italian opera, has been built upon the backs of mutilated indigent little boys. This was due to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban against women on the stage.
Tonio, brought up in a sheltered, nearly reclusive home discovers a few skeletons in the family closet. Not long after that he’s brutally betrayed. He struggles with his sexuality and manhood in the most heart wrenching manner. Some may want to shy away from the sexual scenes, but it can be argued they are central to the story. To say the least, the sexual climate of the Italian opera in the 1750s was bawdy. The escapades of the aristocracy amoral, and Rice doesn’t doesn’t soften that or conceal it from the reader. It is what it is.
Tonie captured my heart. Early in the book I could see disaster coming long before he did. Well, he was only a child, and adored and over-protected one at that. How could he see the plots around him that were a danger to him? I found myself silently admonishing him. “Nooooo, don’t do that.” I kept turning pages because I cared about Tonio. I wanted it to be all right for him at the end, and that was never a given in this story.