All Saints


Madeline McDonnell

Date of Award


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing


Creative Writing

Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 208 pages)


Anna-Maria is a cellist at the Ospedale della Pietá, a centuries-old Venetian institution that houses a hospital, a convent, an orphanage, and a music school for girls. As Anna-Maria begins venturing outside the walls of the Pietá, the lives of various characters begin to collide--Anna and her chorus mate Maddalena become entranced with an opera that comes through town, a widowed Fishmonger becomes obsessed with Anna because she reminds him of her dead son, an ailing doge mourns the loss of his city, a strange woman who lives in the sea begins meddling with the lives of those she encounters.

The story unfolds in a series of interlocking vignettes, curated by an overarching narrator who has some agency over the characters and which sides of their stories she wants to reveal. The larger narrative structure imitates that of a music score, or a libretto, each vignette carrying a particular thematic sound that functions as a part of the whole. The constraint of the vignette mimics the constraints the narrator has placed on the characters by casting them in their own limiting roles—the young stupid girl, the lusty old maestro, the nun, the widower, the tragic ingénue. As the novel progresses, the characters begin to push against these constraints, and the story begins to slip out from the narrator's grip.

All Saints is about performance and expectation, obsession and objectification, empathy and connection, the real and the surreal, and the limitless ways that different lives can come together and unfold.

Persistent Identifier