The Venetians' language and way of thinking set them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. This latest work from the incomparable Peter Ackroyd, like a magic gondola, transports its listeners to that sensual and surprising city. His account embraces facts and romance, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges, and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the festivals and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and its trading empire, the wars against Napoleon, and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the glassblowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the artists---Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo; and the ever-present undertone of Venice's shadowy corners and dead ends, of prisons and punishment, wars and sieges, scandals and seductions. Ackroyd's Venice: Pure City is a study of Venice much in the vein of his lauded London: The Biography. Like London, Venice is a fluid, writerly exploration organized around a number of themes. History and context are provided in each chapter, but Ackroyd's portrait of Venice is a particularly novelistic one, both beautiful and rapturous. We could have no better guide---enjoying Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city.
©2009 Peter Ackroyd (P)2010 Tantor
"A loving yet clear-eyed celebration of the enigmatic icon on the Adriatic." (Kirkus)
Ackroyd does present some interesting information in this book, but he just kept on giving those same facts out again and again throughout. Also... the descriptions are a bit overwrought--I think his editor needed to employ the red pen more liberally in places. The book is reasonably informative and entertaining, but I had heard so much praise for this author that I was expecting a MUCH better book than "Venice" is. If it was a printed book, rather than an audiobook, I think I would have started skimming pages after the first few chapters.
All the magic and mystery of Venice is sucked out and left for a dying corpse by this endless and pointless book. Ackroyd merely lists and lists and lists subjects, dates, events; and exclusively by quoting other writers and authorities. Has he ever stepped foot in Venice himself? Reminiscent of a poorly documented and disorganized term paper. Back and forth through the centuries; skipping from subject to locale, with no central theme or subject to hold together.
Altogether, and huge bore, and a serious disappointment for anyone who has visited Venice and was looking for some history or story to contain the perspective of this amazing place. If you're thinking of reading/listening to this as a preparation to visiting Venice-- don't. It will only be an endless annoyance.
The history of Venice and the people world wide who were attracted to that fragile vibrant port is so rich in drama and cultural fascination that I couldn't absorb it suffciently in one sitting. A rare and absorbing pleasure.
This is a fantastic book telling of the unique history of Venice bridging the diverse cultures and ideas of the Eastern and Western worlds. Mr. Vance's reading is top notch, as usual. Poignant, profound and highly recommended.
I definitely learned something about Venice, so it wasn't a waste of time, but it was way too literary and impressionistic for me.
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