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The City of Falling Angels

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  10,976 ratings  ·  1,412 reviews
The author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil returns after more than a decade to give us an intimate look at the "magic, mystery, and decadence" of the city of Venice and its inhabitants

It was seven years ago that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil achieved a record-breaking four-year run on The New York Times bestseller list. John Berendt's inimitable bran
Hardcover, 414 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2005)
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Written by the same man who wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this book takes the reader to Venice shortly after the well-renowned Fenice Theatre burned down. Berendt offers a multiple of theories surrounding the fire, from Mafia participation to a neglectful renovation crew.

There are few cohesive lines through this book. There is the mystery surrounding the fire of the Fenice, and there are gossipy stories involving many of the locals (most of whom are actually expatriates and not
I started this book a few months ago, loved it, continued reading it, continued loving it, then put it down for a few months before ever finishing it. Hmm. The problem with the book is, although it paints a vivid picture of Venice, it doesn’t grab the reader like Berendt’s previous book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Something about a burnt-down opera house just doesn’t excite the same tension and thrills that good old fashioned homicide does. As travel writing, City of Falling Angels ...more
John Berendt wonderfully digs beneath the surface of Venice in The City of Falling Angels.. He provides much history of not only the art and buildings of Venice, but also of many Venetian families. He manages to do this all in such a casual way that one forgets it's non-fiction. I'm only sorry, I didn't read this prior to visiting Venice.

One of my favorite lines in the book, describing Venice:

“On one occasion I set about testing this notion by concocting a game called “photo roulette,” the obje
Glenn Sumi
In The City Of Falling Angels, John Berendt tries to do for Venice what he did for Savannah, Georgia, in his blockbuster hit Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. Just as the earlier book began with a murder, this one opens with something almost as compelling: a fire that, in 1996, destroyed the historic La Fenice Opera House and almost destroyed Venice itself.

The cause of the fire is considered arson by some, negligence by others, and there's talk that the Mafia could be connected. But the b
Nov 13, 2007 Denise rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This book is actually one I like to read again and again. John Berendt is a former magazine writer and his first book "Midnight In The Garden of Good And Evil" was a fascinating peek at Savannah society as well as a peek inside the judicial system - following trials of Jim Williams for murder - tried multiple times for the same murder and acquitted each time.

"The City of Falling Angels" turns it attention to the ancient Italian city of Venice, and the tragic fire that destroyed the famous opera
An American walks around Venice trying to explain its peculiarities. He has access very few other Americans would be granted--Unfortunately who comes out looking odd here, in my opinion, is the other Americans expatriates who call the place home. The Ezra Pound and Save Venice incidents largely involve dubious Americans with huge egos that need stroking. The absurdities are worth reading about particularly if you are aware of NYC socialites whose names are within the book.

I enjoyed the book but
Aug 25, 2007 Leslie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Italy fans
Shelves: audiobooks, italy
I was so glad when this book was over. It was quite a chore to listen to on audio, but I think it would have been the same for print. The author moves to Venice and then infiltrates the locals' worlds. We learn a lot about the burning of the Fenice opera house, Ezra Pound's estate, and everyday life in Venice. I enjoyed learning that everyone walks in Venice--there are no cars. However, I felt that the author went into way more detail about the Fenice fire than I needed to know. It was just hard ...more
THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS (Non-Fiction-Venice, Italy-Cont) – VG+
Berendt, John – Standalone
The Penguin Press, 2005, US Hardcover – ISBN: 1594200580

First Sentence: “Everyone in Venice is acting,” Count Girolamo Marcello told me.

In January 1996, La Fenice (the Phoenix) was destroyed by fire. Was it an accident, or was it arson? Berendt’s book is a non-fiction look at more than the investigation, but a true study of the history, culture and people of Venice.

I loved this book. No, it’s not on the sa
I love Berendt's style of writing and this is very well done. Like his previous nonfictional work, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" the author takes an event, (this time the fire at the Fenice, the Venice Opera House in 1996) investigates it and creates a story he, as the author, and we the reader, all become intrigued by. As always there is a memorable cast of characters. Like Savannah in his previous work, Venice takes on its own identity and that is critical to the plot. The artists, ...more
This is by the same author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story.

After he left Savannah Berendt went and lived in Venice, Italy for a decade. This is very similar to his earlier novel, he lives in and gets to know a coastal city following a noteworthy crime, this time instead of a murder, he follows the investigation of the burning of a historical opera house.

Also like the Savannah book, he sheds a revealing light on the decadence, selfishness and occasional silliness of
Need to reread this one again. I picked up this book and bought it mainly because of my first memory of Venice. It was October of 1997 during my honeymoon and my husband and I had just arrived and were trying to find our Venetian hotel. We were wandering aimlessly through the small passageways and streets of Venice up and over canals; we were hopelessy lost, and we stumbled upon the ruins of La Fenice. The famed opera house had burned in January, 1996 but there had been no change to the site sin ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Hilda rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hilda by: Evie Lopez-Brignoni
I didn't finish the book, but from what I read (about 3/4ths) I didn't like it, except for the Ezra Pound section - although I didn't really see the connection with the Fenice theater burning.

The book reminded me of a never-ending Dominick Dunne piece for "Vanity Fair" with its continuous name-dropping and irrelevant gossip - name dropping is only fun when you know who the people are! Alas, I'm not up on Venice society.

However, the writing itself - the use of language - as expected was wonderf
Berendt is a very patient writer, which to me is neither a compliment or an insult. I listened to this on audio because I think Holter Graham is an excellent reader, and I think I liked the book, too. Large sections of it only loosely tied into the main story of the burning of Teatro La Fenice, Venice's opera house. Often, however these digressions were more interesting to me than the central story. For example, the story of Ezra Pound's papers was very compelling to me, probably because I have ...more
*Midnight* was such an entertaining, intriguing book that it would only be natural to go looking for more from Berendt. Sadly, this book isn’t it.

Though Berendt tries to give *Falling Angels* a convincing through-line (and you’d think it would have one – the built-in whodunit of the burning of the Fenice Theatre), the thing simply never gels.

In part, it’s not Berendt’s fault; it’s the fault of “reality.” In typical Italian fashion, there’s no clear good guy or bad guy; the guy convicted for a
In 1996, a fire broke out somewhere inside the empty Fenice opera house in Venice. The opera house was being restored, and was supposed to reopen within a month. When the fire broke out, a million things went swiftly and horribly wrong: the interior of the opera house was littered with open paint cans, chemicals, and cloths, making accidental fire an inevitability, and the fire alarm was disabled. The canal next to the Fenice had been drained recently, and because of this the fire boats weren't ...more
Susan (the other Susan)
Really wanted there to be a lurid murder like in Berendt's Midnight, but I guess there are limits to what a literary non-fiction author can do for the sake of his craft. Enjoyed it, though, and oh how it made me want to be a mysterious American expat occupying a palazzo... Audiobook note: Well done. Thank you, Holter Graham, for not doing Italian accents! I SO appreciate a voice talent who knows he's narrating a book, not acting out a radio play.
I wish John Berendt had written a different book about Venice. One that was about the real inhabitants and daily lives of Venetians. It's one of those places where the myth and exclamations and romanticism of tourists overshadow the fact that for some people, it's just home. There are pluses (the last train to the mainland leaves at 9 pm, and it's expensive to stay at a hotel in the city, so the majority of the tourists clear out for the night) and minuses (oh, those tourists and their obsession ...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
While technically a piece of non-fiction, the narrative structure of this book makes it seem more an interwoven collection of short vignettes. True to life though, they often have somewhat incomplete endings, although the author has worked them together in a way to give the satisfaction of an overall complete story that tells the real story of the Venice under the glitter and glamour of the tourist culture. While the picture is still presented by an interloper into Venetian culture, his view see ...more
Ken Dowell
The first problem I had with this book is that it says right on the cover "by the author of 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.'" So I expected it to be brilliant. It's not. But it is still pretty interesting.

The narrative is framed by the burning of the Fenice Opera House in 1996. Along the way we meet a wide variety of Venetians but most reflect the author's taste, which skews toward the aristocratic. We meet a descendent of doges, an esteemed multi-generation family of glassblowers and
I had a real love-hate relationship with this book. A lot of reviews complain that there's no real theme to the book, that it's just a collection of different stories all lumped together, and it is, to a degree, but I liked that about it. It's very well written, evocative, captures the sense of Venice and really transported me there. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and perhaps it should be a 5 star for that alone, but I've knocked one off because from the very first chapter, when the author went to gre ...more
I loved his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I think I was expecting the same. It was an interesting story but it wasn't as good as Midnight. I LOVED Midnight
If you liked "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," then you must read this. It is every bit as good! I loved it! I am thinking of changing my rating to five stars....
I think I'm giving this a higher score simply because I recently visited Venice and therefore had a point of reference as I read. I mean it is good, not quite as compelling as Berendt's first book, but along the same lines--a crime in an historical setting and a cast of very interesting, real-life "characters."

This book sat on my night stand for YEARS, until I picked it up a couple of weeks ago. I don't know what I was waiting for, but I'm glad I waited until now. It did take me longer than it s
As he did with New Orleans in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has the skill to make non fiction read like fiction, with almost unbelievable plot twists, rich characters, and the ability to make a city's history myserious, deep and complex. And Venice - with its crumbling palazzos, beautiful (stinky and slimy) canals, and the fire at La Fenice- scandal, arson, intrigue. There do seem to be a few extraneous subplots (if non fiction can be said to have subplots) but overall, this i ...more
It's always strange when I read something and can't decide if it's fiction or non-fiction. Twice, I had to jump back to the dust jacket to confirm that Berendt's take on Venice was truth, in as much as it could be. The interwoven tales of intrigue reveal sympathetic characters, lies and mysteries, and dozens of strange asides and questionable happenstances that deliver an intimate look at a mysterious city defined more by its people (and those who believe they're its people) than by the history ...more
Venice is the city of falling angels—literally carvings falling off of buildings, possibly on your head if you weren’t careful. The main focus of the book is the fire that burned the Fenice opera house, the reactions of Venetians and those from outsiders like the Americans in Save Venice, the non-profit organization that raised funds for restoration of Venetian art and architecture, as well as the following investigations, legal battles and eventual restoration. The author functions as a sort of ...more
Book Concierge

Berendt is perhaps best known for his nonfiction exploration of the intricacies behind an infamous crime in Savannah GA - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - which spent an unprecedented (and still unbroken) record 216 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

On the heels of that success he arrived in Venice for a holiday – just a few days after fire engulfed and destroyed the famous Fenice Opera House, where five of Verdi’s operas had their premier. The conspiracy theories and
Perry Whitford
What can a writer possibly say about Venice that has not been said already by some of the most gifted writers the world has ever seen? New York journalist Berendt, author of bestseller and oscar nominated movie In The Garden of Good and Evil (never read it, nor seen the film) indulges himself with an extended stay in Venice outside of the tourist season and writes a fascinating book, not about the place so much as about some of it's more colourful and celebrated citizens.
The most unfortunate inc
Elizabeth Wallace
Anybody who knows me knows I don't read a lot of non-fiction. I WANT to read non-fiction, but I get lured away by the latest Mieville or Valente, almost every time. It doesn't help that to me a lot of non-fiction feels tedious, like I'm pushing a gondola through the sludge of a half-drained Venetian canal (Heh. See what I did there?)

But THIS book, I liked. The title definitely grabbed me: in the early 1970's, before a lot of restoration got started in Venice, pieces of the marble ornaments on th
Lisa Platt
This is another book I read in preparation for a trip to Venice, and as a piece of literature which illuminates the essence of a place, it's superb. Berendt spent the better part of 3 years living in Venice and getting to know the fascinating characters and social tensions which form the tapestry of Venitian society. The plot centers around the burning of the historic Opera House and it's subsequent reconstruction, an event which brought to the fore all the various ambitions and biases of the re ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please update/edit synopsis of this copy 3 19 Jan 04, 2014 07:34PM  
Sebastian 1 8 Sep 27, 2013 07:06PM  
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  • Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon
  • Rome: The Biography of a City
  • The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York
  • Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World
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The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. He was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.

Berendt first traveled to Sav
More about John Berendt...

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