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The City of Falling Angels [Paperback]

John Berendt
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Sep 2005

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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; Airside ed edition (26 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340840617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340840610
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,103,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The story of the Fenice fire and its aftermath is exceptionally interesting, the cast of characters is suitably various and flamboyant, and Berendt's prose is precise, evocative and witty (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)

An engaging journey in which the author navigates Venice's shadowy politics, its tangled bureaucracy and its elegant high-society nightlife with a discerning, sanguine touch. Berendt does great justice to an exalted city that has rightly fascinated the likes of Henry James, Robert Browning and many filmmakers throughout the world . . . In Berendt's capable hands, the city has never seemed more colorful, perplexing and alluring. (Kirkus Reviews)

'Berendt has delivered an intriguing mosaic of modern life in Venice, which makes for first-rate travel writing' (Publishers Weekly)

The City of Falling Angels - one of the longest-awaited literary encores in recent times - strikes many of the same notes as "Midnight". It, too, is set in one of history's blessed backwaters, a place of crumbling mansions and rococo intrigue. And it, too, teems with a diverse cast of aristocrats and lowlifes. (Adam Goodheart, New York Times Book Review)

An urbane, beautifully fashioned book with much exotic charm. . . Once again, Mr Berendt makes erudite, inquisitive, nicely sceptical company as he leads the reader through the shadows of what was heretofore better known as a tourist attraction. (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

Book Description

A unique tour behind the exquisite façade of the world's most beautiful historic city

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
THE AIR STILL SMELLED OF CHARCOAL when I arrived in Venice three days after the fire. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars City of Fallen Angels 3 Mar 2006
A book written possibly from an American point of view emphasising the various and ongoing fascination and connections that Americans continue to have with La Serinissima. Nevertheless John Berendt gets under the skin of Venice and its people to such a degree that you feel that if you passed them in the Calle you would immediately recognise them from Archimede Seguso to the man of a hundred identities and uniforms to match.
Whilst your typical Venetian gets quite emotional quite easily on subjects ranging from pigeons in the city to the increasing maritime traffic through the Lagoon, the author does not let it cloud his view of the situation.For example he provides an insight into the fire at la Fenice from a very different slant, including a view from a near neighbours window of the ongoing tragedy, but one I think that captures the effect of this catastrophe on the city and its inhabitants with a closeness that I have not seen in other accounts of the fire.
If you are travelling to Venice do read this book as it will, I believe, make you appreciate the city and its inhabitants with a different view, but one which I believe will get you much closer to what living in Venice is all about. A very good read, however you get the feeling that Mr. Berendt hasn't finished yet with Venice despite everything still captured by the magic of this city?
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By helen
Amazing - this book is not at all what one may think one's getting! Maybe one expects a gentle wander through Venice, with the odd anecdote, and of course plenty of historical knowledge served up in an oh so casual manner. In short, like a little book of journalistic appreciation of a beautiful place. One or two readers may even expect it to be an insider's guide to Venice- to which they can then point and say "Oh really, he doesn't understand Venice at all". But read the book, and you'll be flabbergasted! Much like the town he is writing about, Berendt confuses you, sets wrong trails, surprises you and eventually makes you realize you've gone in a huge circle to where you've started out from, only with so much more knowledge and experience. His account of the fate of the Ezra Pound papers for example, is one of the most astounding "real crime" accounts I've read - and of course Berendt manages to spin a web which craftily links it up to Henry James' "Aspern Papers". This is a simply amazing book which leave one gasping at his cunning and elegant way of exploring the dark side of the mysterious town called Venice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not really Venetians 29 July 2010
John Berendt's book is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to read about the odd characters from outside the city who have populated it over the last decades. He enjoys showing up hypocrisy, whether it is in connection with the estate of the poet Ezra Pound or those responsible for the fire at the Fenice opera house with which the book opens. Ordinary Venetians scarcely get a word in edgeways. If you have been to Venice and wondered about the forces which have kept it going over the last few years, this is the book for you.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another beauty from Berendt 7 Jan 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" was such a worthy contribution to the non-fiction genre presided over by Capote's "In Cold Blood" that I cannot now explain why I was so luke-warm about the news of Berendt's latest work.

I think I was put off because I thought "The City of Falling Angels" would be something of an art history of Venice. I was also wary about the fact it had been ten years' in production. The same is true of "Something Happened", Joseph Heller's second novel. And, in Heller's case, the fact that the book had been assembled so painstakingly letter-by-letter over such a long period really showed to the detriment of the prose.

I accept that, with such a low level of expectation, I was hardly likely to be disappointed, but I quickly realised that the book was just brilliant, evoking not only memories of "Midnight" but, more interestingly, the realisation that the Berendt style is unique amongst the many hundreds of different books read in the ten years between the two, being part travelogue, part social history, part biography and part non-fiction crime.

Berendt is capable of unearthing the scent of intrigue from the most innocuous of encounters. His unique talent thereafter is to follow that scent to a conclusion whether that be by way of his personal charm (very few seem to decline his requests for interview) or his considerable forensic powers of analysis. And, thanks to his narrative gifts, he is able to generate real suspense in the leads he has running.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Views of an ex-pat 29 Jun 2006
If you loved 'Midnight in the Garden of Eden' and were seduced by Berendt's treatment of Savannah, prepare to be a little disappointed. Whilst he has undoubtedly spoken to many Venetians and American ex-pats, at no point does he convince that he has been accepted by Venice as one of her own, or that he has managed to unearth anything even lightly hidden.

His evocations of the city are wonderful, or course, but he doesn't really get beyond second-hand depictions of Venice itself. He may have won a 'sconto' in one of the restaurants, but most of the natives in the book seem to be periphal characters he speaks to once, or twice at most. An American book, by an American.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
well worth reading prior to visiting venice. very enjoyable!
Published 5 days ago by lucifer
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ccity of Falling Angels
I loved the book: Midnight in the garden of evil and this is just as good. Very engaging and entertaining. A great read.
Published 1 month ago by Ms Linda Louisa Dell
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book of Venice
Wonderful book... Such a fantastic subject... At first I thought it was fiction, the story was so amazing, but it is a true story .
Published 2 months ago by Mrs Irene A Clark
3.0 out of 5 stars Arrived in good time as expected time for our trip to Venice but the book is wordy and goes into great description of the people of Venice. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Diana Hoy
5.0 out of 5 stars Super book by a wonderul author
An essential book for anyone visiting Venice and enchanting in every respect. It is a triumph and well worth a space on the bookshelf
Published 8 months ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars The City of Falling Angels
an excellent book in wonderful condition delivered with efficiency on time. Anyone visiting Venice should read this after the guide books to get an understanding of the human... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mark Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
Having just returned from Venice I loved every minute. So evocative and sums up the atmosphere of the city. I think it is better to read it after a visit to fully appreciate it.
Published 13 months ago by Judyeledacohen
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book to take to VENICE
This just sets the scene for Venice, a bit of history, interesting characters - it will bring any visit to even greater life!
Published 16 months ago by Teens2006
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book I buy for friends travelling to Venice
This is the book I buy my friends when they plan a trip to the lagoon city. The Fire at the Fenice Opera House on the Monday evening, 29th January 1996 is at the heart of this... Read more
Published 17 months ago by TripFiction
5.0 out of 5 stars Beneath her mask?
Others have already written in depth re contents, style - i'll keep my comments short. This book is marvellous, simply wonderful! Beautifully written. Impeccably researched. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Judith Lorraine Annandale
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