January 05, 2007

"The City of Falling Angels"

I am sorry to say that it has been over 20 years since I visited the extraordinary city of Venice, and I have very fond memories of walking along the canals through the fog, admiring the magnificent sights and enjoying its delicious cuisine. Now, thanks to John Berendt's latest book "The City of Falling Angels" I feel as if I've had an armchair trip back to this magical place.

Probably best known for the 1994 bestselling novel set in Savannah, GA, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", John Berendt took his time with his most recent project. The result, he takes care to point out, is a work of non fiction, and explores the intricacies of modern Venetian society in a way that only an insider can reveal. Beginning with the fire that destroyed La Fenice, the jewel-box opera house and pride of the city, and continuing through its re-building and gala re-opening, Berendt pauses along the story's path to explore other facets of Venice's unique character and characters. From the humorous "Rat Man" of Treviso to the mysterious suicide of a popular television personality, Berendt offers firsthand insights into the people who make this place so special. His descriptions of shenanigans at the Guggenheim Collection, the Ezra Pound Foundation and the Save Venice Society are told with an outsider's irony and an insider's practicality making them both universal and regional at the same time.

"The City of Falling Angels" is a wonderful book. It's not a "fast read" but doesn't plod at the pace of historical facts. The marvelous, mystical city of Venice has provided the writer with the stuff of fiction by virtue of its own eccentricities and inhabitants. What better story is there?

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