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Venice Paperback – 1 Jul 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099422565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099422563
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Yet another wonderful biography of a city" (Lesley McDowell The Independent on Sunday)

"He is brilliant on beginnings... Ackroyd covers an immense amount of ground with verve and elegance" (Independent on Sunday)

"Ackroyd tells the story well...where he excels is in his descriptions...he writes beguilingly" (Guardian)

"Ackroyd is hugely intelligent and formidably industrious; there can be few people, Venetian or foreign, who know Venice better than he... It is full of good things" (Daily Telegraph)

"Elegant... Interweaving psychogeographical investigation with history, picking out defining characteristics which were present from its earliest days" (Scotsman)

Book Description

Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial - a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice: ultimate city.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Yes, this is magisterial, beautifully written - but, typically of Ackroyd, too many questionable sweeping assertions sometimes impede the flow of what should be a rollicking good read. For every "wow!" there is a corresponding "huh?" It can be argued this is what makes Ackroyd unique.

If you know and love Venice, you'll enjoy this. If you don't, it will pique your curiosity. And you might agree with Shakespeare's Holofernes: "Venetia, Venetia, chi non ti vede, non ti pretia!" (Venice - whoever doesn't see you, doesn't esteem you.)

Let's start with the "wow!" Wide-ranging, learned and instructive. As with his London: The Biography, Ackroyd dives headfirst into the water surrounding Venice's 117 islands, fishing for primal origins and finding it an elemental metaphor for the city. Chapter 2, "City of St Mark," deals with the refugees who settled there. Then comes the golden age of state power, commerce and trade. This also embraces the merchants of the Rialto and the Jews in the Ghetto.

By Chapter 6, Ackroyd is back in rhapsodic mode, with "Timeless City," including ruminations on the bells. The next section, "Living City," humanises the city, with fascinating subsections on Body and Buildings; Learning and Language; Colour and Light (fabulous work with the artists including Bellini, Tintoretto and Titan); and Pilgrims and Tourists. Then Ackroyd moves on to carnival and carnal aspects, including the "Eternal Feminine" (virgin and whore). Similarly, Sacred City considers heavenly and hellish aspects - which seem to win out in "Shadows of History" with its Death in Venice theme.

And now for the "huh?" factor.
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As a Venetian living in London, I have picked up this book out of nostalgia...and because all books (written in Italian) about Venice I have ever read were essentially aimed to display the knowledge of the author! What Peter Akroyd does in this book, is to organise the content in themes, making historic fact more "digestible" for the reader, because everything follows a logic path. Dates bore me to death, so for me, this way of getting information really works. This is, even if founded on solid historic background, quite an emotive book, that makes you see how this amazing city evolved and giving a sense of what life in the city must have been throughout centuries. Only somebody with a huge sensibility and intelligence could have written so delicately, capturing all nuances of my hometown. On quite a few passages, I almost felt I was there, hundreds of years ago, walking inside that "big mosque" that is the Basilica. Absolutely unmissable.
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By Robert Archer VINE VOICE on 1 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a great admirer of the work of Peter Ackroyd. Ever since I read `Hawksmoor`
I have sought out all I can of his writing whether it be fiction or non-fiction. I was therefore looking forward to his most recent publication `Venice`. Sadly I can only say I was disappointed.
Perhaps Peter Ackroyd is best known for his numerous books about London. This would be understandable since each of them is outstanding in its own right, together they are a monument to one man`s love and appreciation of one of the greatest cities of the world. Unfortunately the samew cannot be said for `Venice`. Perhaps my expectations were set too high. I read the book looking for the spark to ignite the narrative-it did not happen. Throughout I could not help thinking the author`s heart was not in the writing nor, more surprisingly, the city.
In fairness, the fault could be all mine because I had recently re-read Jan Morris`s book of the same name. Reading Morris`s book had been a pleasure from start to finish simply because the author made me feel the same way about the city. This never happened with Peter Ackroyd`s book. Too often I felt the latter book had been written to a formula. The layout of the chapters are similar to those of Morris`s book. Was this accidental or deliberate?
I admit this is a partial view and I do not really want to dissuade anyone from reading Peter Ackroyd. All I would really suggest is that if you are a newcomer to Peter Ackroy`s work choose another of his books and if you want a book about Venice read the one by Jan Morris
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By Roman Clodia TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 July 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A work of synthesis and integration as Peter Ackroyd reads everything that has been written about Venice rather than uncovering new sources or conducting original research, but what he adds to the material is a poet's imagination in making metaphorical connections which colour his - and our - view of this version of Venice.

This is often more like a collection of thematic essays rather than a linear 'biography' of the city: some of it is relatively well-known - the Venice of the nuns and courtesans, the masked balls, the slavery, banking and trade of nascent capitalism; but there are nice illuminating moments too.

Some of the connections can feel a bit forced - Venice is both parsimonious and lavish, according to which idea Ackroyd needs in the moment; both conservative and radically innovative; both patriarchal and allowing women an unprecedented freedom. And my biggest criticism is that there is a defiance of a sense of historicism here as we whizz from the sixteenth- to the nineteenth century often in a single sentence: as if Venice is timeless, somehow outside of time, always the same despite the changes in the world outside.

All the same, this is a gloriously pleasurable read: a book that has absorbed a lot of information and reconstituted it via Ackroyd's vision.
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