Venice Paperback – 1 Jul 2010
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"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)
Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial - a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice: ultimate city.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book - if you are visiting Venice this adds so much to your understanding of the City if that makes a difference to your enjoyment of your visit.Published 4 months ago by JayAySee
Very interesting History. Repetitive at times and did not personally enjoy the writing style.Published 6 months ago by mark twain
An easy synopsis of Venician history for beginners on the trade and quirks of ritual in venice, however I did find one chapter quite hard to follow in regards to the Venician army... Read morePublished 7 months ago by India H.
Purchased as gift for a very frequent visitor to Venice. I am sure it will be well received and is excellent value.Published 8 months ago by Y. C. Barlow
Super book. Just what I wanted, loads of history plus excellent illustrations.Published 9 months ago by s e edmunds
The early chapters of the book make for compelling reading, full of interest and detail. There does come a point when one wonders how much one really wants to know about Venice,... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Dorothy Barbour
I bought this after a visit to Venice becuase I wanted to learn more about the city. I enjoyed this book and got a real sense of the culture and history behind the city as it... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Will FH
It is a sort of history of Venice, It has only just arrived, so I can only describe it as an interesting book with some very nice pictures, a lot are old black and white with lots... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Susan Bailey