Taking the fire that destroyed the Fenice theatre in 1996 as his starting point, John Berendt creates a unique and unforgettable portrait of Venice and its extraordinary inhabitants. Beneath the exquisite facade of the world's most beautiful historic city, scandal, corruption and venality are rampant, and John Berendt is a master at seeking them out. Ezra Pound and his mistress, Olga; poet Mario Stefani; the Rat Man of Treviso; or Mario Moro - self-styled carabiniere, fireman, soldier or airman, depending on the day of the week.
With his background in journalism, Berendt is perfectly poised to gain access to private and unapproachable people, and persuade them to talk frankly to him. The result is mischievous, witty, compelling - and destined to be the non-fiction succes d'estime of the year.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384 pages, 1 map
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
- Publication Date: 20/05/2006
- Category: Travel writing
- ISBN: 9780340825006
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by herschelian
From the moment I started reading this book I was hooked, and it was all I could do to stop myself booking a plane ticket and departing for Venice there and then. Many, many books have been written about Venice, or are set in Venice, from travelogues, serious tomes on Venitian art and architecture, history, as well as crime, romantic and literary fiction. Berendt has written a very different book. He writes -with a light gossipy style- about the Venetians, and through them the reader gets a wonderful portrait of this magical city at the beginning of the 21stC. He has used the burning of La Fenice, Venice's famous opera theatre, the criminal investigations which followed the fire, the convoluted machinations between various groups to get the theatre rebuilt, and the rebuilding itself as the backbone of his book. Woven around that strand are encounters with an amazing cast of characters, The Rat Man, Count Volpi, Olga Rudge (Ezra Pound's widow, the feuding brothers, and any number of Contessas and Marcheses, not to mention the English and American expats who have made Venice their home.His descriptions are so vivid that you can smell the damp,the hot chocolate at Florians, the sewers. You can see the hoards of tourists who are the life-blood of the Venetian economy and paradoxically are destroying the city by their very numbers. You watch with amazed amusement as the various "Save" Venice organisations jockey for pre-eminance and prestige. This is a wonderful book, and I had to keep reminding myself that it is Non-Fiction, and that ALL the characters are real people and use their real names. If you are going to visit Venice for the first time, read this book; if you already know and love Venice, read this book; if you are an armchair traveller, read this book. You WILL enjoy it!
Review by ann_mcp
I found this very US-centric. Much of the book seemed to focus on American expatriates rather than Venetians.