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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars City of Fallen Angels
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...
Published on 3 Mar. 2006 by Mike Blacklock

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars travelogue-style visit to Venice
As a fan of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" I probably am in the same class as most readers of both books in being disappointed by this second one. It has many similarities to the first: both are first person accounts of several years spent as the "outsider" observing the strange customs of an unknown foreign tribe, like an an early explorer in the wilds of...
Published on 11 Dec. 2008 by gilly8


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars City of Fallen Angels, 3 Mar. 2006
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not really Venetians, 29 July 2010
By 
A. Cowan (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars travelogue-style visit to Venice, 11 Dec. 2008
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gilly8 "gilly8" (Mars, the hotspot of the U.S.) - See all my reviews
As a fan of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" I probably am in the same class as most readers of both books in being disappointed by this second one. It has many similarities to the first: both are first person accounts of several years spent as the "outsider" observing the strange customs of an unknown foreign tribe, like an an early explorer in the wilds of who-knows-where. He brought that sense of awe and naivete more believably to us in "Midnight" where the people of Savannah, his fellow Americans, did come across as truly an unusual group with customs and ways new and different from the rest of us. Somehow, though Venice is an actual "foreign" city for most of us, it doesn't seem so strange; the author doesn't bring to the table the same sense of excitement, of being in a really new environment. And it shouldn't have been that way! There are certainly a large cast of characters; a possible murder that sort of fizzles out; the fire which destroys the old Fenece Opera house, a tragedy for Venetians and Opera lovers; but somehow I never FELT the loss myself...The only one of his little vignettes of which the book is made that I became emotionally involved in was the story of Ezra Pound, and his long-time partner Olga Rudge, their daughter and her family, and the attempts by a nefarious American woman to fleece Olga, then in her 90's, of not just money but more importantly the rights to the papers, and the memorabilia over 50+ years that she had from the late Pound. It is a sad story that if it took place here and now in the States now would fall under elder abuse laws, but there and then seemed to have been brushed off by the authorities, and even Ms Rudges' adult daughter and grandson seemed not to be overly concerned though they themselves took a financial loss. Berendt was perhaps prevented from pursuing further into this, but is was by far the most interesting and heart-tugging episode: Olga in her late 90's going by foot to the bank to get some of her papers from Pound and being told no, she couldn't have them, they now belonged to the "Ezra Pound Foundation" that is, the dummy foundation headed by the American woman and her attorney, and to whom Ms Olga Rudge had unwittingly signed over her control of everything she owned, even her house. That story just stops too. All the side stories seem to just end, with no real feeling of completeness. I know its non-fiction, and things don't neatly wrap themselves up, but in some of the cases, thing ends with a sort of flat thud. I also never got a clear visual of Venice, which is odd too; one would think the gondoliers, the palaces and St Marks Square would all be brought to life...It should have been but it was never clearly painted for me, I think it was assumed I knew it from photographs, but that should not be assumed by an author. Nor were the people he discussed well "painted " verbally. Overall-- though I stayed with it-- a disappointment.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book - and so different from what you think, 9 Aug. 2006
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Such a disappointment., 8 Mar. 2015
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This has the distinction of being the first book I haven't finished in years. I have spent a lot of time in Venice over the past 40 years and can never get enough of the place and its buildings. The atmosphere never fails to captivate me regardless of the time of year. Sadly this book added nothing to my feelings for the city.
At first I was captured by the whole tragedy of the fire at La Fenice and having visited the rebuilt opera house, I was prepared to be engrossed. With a few exceptions I quickly lost interest in the characters, many of whom seemed entranced by the sound of their own voices. When he did talk about real Venetians , there was a chance I would stick with it, but as petty squabble followed petty squabble , I realised I didn't care about these people. And that's the point. A good book about travel and cities will bring the inhabitants to life and make you engage with them. For me, he achieved neither if these things. Ultimately I gave up because I lost interest in what he had to say.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not the real Venetians, 11 Jun. 2015
By 
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This books starts well with excellent eyewitness descriptions of the fire that destroyed the famous Fenice opera house in January 1996, and this is followed up later by accounts of the long drawn-out investigation of the causes of the fire, with its oscillating conclusions, and the labyrinthine bureaucracy that surrounded reconstruction, and which contributed to long delay of seven years before the opera house was reopened. Both stories tell you much about what is wrong with Venice. These accounts do partly conform to the author's stated aim: to write a book not primarily about the art and architecture of Venice, but instead to tell the story of its inhabitants. But elsewhere this is far from true. Venetians do appear, but they are either a few eccentric characters, or the elite of the city, and they are outnumbered by foreigners, mainly expatriate American, again of a certain class. Thus, for example, much space is given over to the machinations surrounding the papers of Ezra Pound, and the intrigues and squabbles within the rich patrons of the Save Venice movement. These are subjects that are undoubtedly interesting, at least to some, but are remote to the lives of ordinary Venetians. Much of the book resembles material from Hello! magazine: who attended what party in what palace etc. It quickly becomes repetitive and boring and I found that I had little interest in what these people did or thought.
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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
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"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.

In whatever context he meets the various characters of Venice he avoids any commentary letting the words (quoted faithfully) and actions of each speak for themselves and yet by his presentation of the evidence of such encounters he is able get his point across with subtlety.

And he meets famous characters from the past too: Ezra Pound spent a great deal of his own life in Venice. Berendt explores his connections with the city and comments on his literary legacy. He unearths a letter from Pound to his (then-teenage) daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz and, as it contains his advice on creative writing, sets it out in full (p196). Of course, Brendt's own prose measures up and it serves as yet another proof that the reader is in the hands of a real professional.

I accept there is some art history of Venice in there, but it is well-presented and I have to accept that it even enhanced his tales.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for anyone who wants to discover the 'real' Venice!, 20 Jan. 2011
Have been meaning to read this book for ages and then happened upon a bargain copy by chance (hardcover in the 99p store lol!!) For anyone who has visited and loved Venice, they might recognise my melancholy feeling at not seeing the Venezia behind the unrelenting tourist facade. Berendt's book delves into this secret world with a careful and genuine teasing out of interesting and intriguing stories (yes, via both locals and foreigners, but in the case of the later, some have lived there for 20 plus years, so I guess they count!) If you've always wanted to live the dolce vita in the Venuto, then this is the book for you! Now it's on Kindle, which means you can read and reread it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beneath her mask?, 12 Oct. 2012
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 in the days after our return from an extended stay in Venice, it recreated for us the magic (nothing is ever quite as it seems in Venice!!) of this most mysterious of cities. The author strips away layer upon layer of her mask (his audacity is almost breathtaking at times) - to (very nearly) reveal the face beneath.
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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
By 
Susan Andrews (Berkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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The City of Falling Angels
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (Paperback - 5 Jun. 2006)
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