Sunday, November 23, 2008
The City of Falling Angels (2005) John Berendt
And then proceeded to not read it for several years.
Part of the problem was because I had no idea what to expect. Midnight seemed to center around a murder trial, but I wasn’t sure where a book about Venice would go. So Angels sat on the shelf and every couple months I’d think, “I need to read that,” and then go back to whatever fiction I was reading.
Then I started reading Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series. Set in Venice, the story is as much about the city as it is about crime and the life of Commissario Brunetti. After reading through most of that series (I’ve got one paperback book sitting on my shelf, waiting to be savored) I realized City of Falling Angels would be the perfect book to read next, as it would allow me to spend more time in Venice and learn more about the city.
As I often do, I wonder why the hell I’d put off reading this book for so long.
City of Falling Angels is partially about Venice, partially about the fire that destroyed the historic Fenice opera house, and–like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil–partially about the people who were affected by the loss of the Fenice and its subsequent rebuilding. Which was pretty much all Venetians. It’s a series of vignettes that come together as a whole to give us a peek into a city that is so alien to the rest of the modern world. A city with no cars, where people walk everywhere.
I was surprised at how much of the city I “recognized” from Donna Leon’s books. Both in the names of the places, and in the attitude of the residents.
Be aware that this is not a thriller. This is a meander through a city whose pace is slower than cities in the US. We meet lots of people, and are left to draw our own conclusions about those people, which is one thing I like. Interpersonal relationships and feuds are explained in an unbiased manner, leaving us to draw our own opinions as to the participants. Regardless, I found it a fascinating look at an amazing city.
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