An extraordinary chronicle of Venice, its people, and its grandeur Thomas Madden’s majestic, sprawling history of Venice is the first full portrait of the city in English in almost thirty years. Using long-buried archival material and a wealth of newly translated documents, Madden weaves a spellbinding story of a place and its people, tracing an arc from the city’s humble origins as a lagoon refuge to its apex as a vast maritime empire and Renaissance epicenter to its rebirth as a modern tourist hub. Madden explores all aspects of Venice’s breathtaking achievements: the construction of its unparalleled navy, its role as an economic powerhouse and birthplace of capitalism, its popularization of opera, the stunning architecture of its watery environs, and more. He sets these in the context of the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire, the endless waves of Crusades to the Holy Land, and the awesome power of Turkish sultans. And perhaps most critically, Madden corrects the stereotype of Shakespeare’s money-lending Shylock that has distorted the Venetian character, uncovering instead a much more complex and fascinating story, peopled by men and women whose ingenuity and deep faith profoundly altered the course of civilization.
©2012 Thomas F. Madden (P)2012 Recorded Books
The author provides a very holistic view of Venice, covering everything from its artwork and architecture to its politics and history. It offers a great balance between narrative and scholarly detail. A must-read for any student of history. The performance is also well done, with the speaker clearly knowledgeable on Italian.
I was pleasantly surprised by the length of this book. I think it achieves its goal of combining better attention to facts/accuracy (as opposed to legend) with a more interesting style of writing than, say, a history textbook.
In an effort to dispute the legends/stereotypes of Venetians being misers and tricksters, the book attempts to show their side of the story. I tend to think that yes, it is very unlikely that all venetians were greed motivated and sneaky. But I also think that it's just as unlikely that the Venetians were never ever ever at fault for anything that happened to them over a period of many centuries. I think that the author favors the Venetians so strongly that it makes them out to be the victims of everything when in reality, it's probable that sometimes they deserved their fate, and sometimes they didn't -- like most humans on this planet.
Aside from the occasional melodrama, I found this book very interesting and informative and definitely worth reading. I would, however, recommend the BOOK over the audiobook as this particular performance is odd. I don't mind the reader's voice or portrayal, but there are lots of weird... burps, gurgles, and other strange vocal noises that happen a lot within the book. This is unbearably annoying when listening through headphones and it makes me want to turn it off and just buy the actual book.
So: Story is great. Performance is meh.
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