Skip to main content

Review of The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

Year published: 2005
Genre: History, portrait of a city
Setting & time: Venice, 1996-2003, with historical background going back farther

John Berendt arrived in Venice a few days after La Fenice (The Phoenix), Venice’s opera house, went up in flames, and visited it repeatedly over the next 8 years, interviewing people and doing extensive research. The book is a portrait of the city’s artists, aristocrats and glamorous expatriates at that time, with the story of the Fenice fire and its aftermath up to the grand re-opening as the backbone of the narrative, even when discussing other matters, like the debacle over Ezra Pound’s papers.

The book begins with a gripping account of the night of the fire, looking at it through the eyes of some of the people whose portraits he draws later in the book, and continues with a tightly woven tapestry of words. Berendt, like a good journalist, always keeps back and is rarely in the forefront of the narrative, so the book can’t really be called a travelogue. It’s more like a current history and a portrait of certain strata of the city’s inhabitants, and while he doesn’t go into raptures over the city like so many others have done, his love for Venice shines through.

This book is hardly going to be of much use to people who plan on exploring Venice, but it may well provide insights for people who plan on living there. Most of all, it is well written and makes a cosy read. 4 stars.


Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme