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Paradise of Cities: Venice in the Nineteenth Century

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  93 ratings  ·  20 reviews
John Julius Norwich’s A History of Venice has been dubbed “indispensable” by none other than Jan Morris. Now, in his second book on the city once known as La Serenissima, Norwich advances the story in this elegant chronicle of a hundred years of Venice’s highs and lows, from its ignominious capture by Napoleon in 1797 to the dawn of the 20th century.

An obligatory stop on t
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Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Mike
"The simplest thing to tell you of Venice is that I adore it - have fallen deeply and desperately in love with it.."
Henry James pp. 198

In this book Venice is seen as a magnet to the artists, composers and painters who came, stayed for years, and were captured by the city on the Adriatic. It reads like an historical novel, or a compilation of short stories, each chapter dedicated to a different historical person i.e. Henry James, Byron, Wagner, Napoleon, Browning, et.
The narrative flows, and is m
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Zach Wong
Norwich's account of several ex-pats and their relation to the city of Venice is interesting mainly due in part to the covering of an often overlooked period in Venetian history. Most books on the subject of Venice usually tend towards a description of the city at its height when the dodges were still in power. But Norwich strays from this in covering the city in its first twilight where the palaces were abandoned and the city milleau began to change towards that as a refuge for those escaping t ...more
Joe
Very entertaining combination of history/biography/travel writing. It's organised as a series of profiles of mostly writers, artists and cultural patrons who lived in Venice over the course of the 19th century.

Having been to the city I found it easy to empathise with the individuals concerned in terms of their love for Venice. Even though the numbers of people visiting the city, its cultural profile etc have evolved out of all recognition since the end of the 19th century the physical fabric of
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Christopher
Excellent portrait of 19th Century Venice and the Brits and Yanks who traipsed across its stage. Perhaps a little self-indulgent too.

Like any good gossipy book, my favorite parts were about the sexual exploits of its characters. Lord Byron, it seems was able to have anything he wanted, and there are a few homoerotic tales of the kept gondoliers of British intellectuals.

I couldn't shake off the feeling that Lord Norwich wrote the book somehow as a self congratulatory act near the end of his life
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Diana
Erudite, interesting and then almost instantly forgettable (for me, as facts tend to slip straight back out of mind once read). The author's style is easy and seems to exude a deep love for Venice that echoes down the centuries.
Tony George
A good history of the sad aftermath the Venetian Republic.

Mainly due to its sad reflection of the Venetian Republic, this book lacks the vibrancy of Norwich's other histories.
Katie
This was probably more of a 2 star book, but it seems so cruel to give 2 stars to any book that talks about Italy! Norwich is very knowledgeable about the subject matter, almost too much so - if you don't know much about 19th century artists, writers, poets then he kind of leaves you in the dust. I was left in the dust...The first 3 chapters were actually really good, about Austrian rule in Venice and Italy's unification. But after that it just went downhill.
Jessica
This book is great if you're really, really, really into the people profiled in it: Byron, Browning and Ruskin, etc. I have no knowledge or interest in those people so I skipped those chapters and read the chapters on Wagner, Henry James, and the shared chapter on Whistler and Sargent. Still, the book failed to excite me. I was hoping for more insight into the city itself, while Norwich focused on where Henry James had lunch in 1871. Meh.
Gavin
Venice from the point of view of various visitors to and notables of that city. Of interest for just about anybody interested in history, and not just Venice's history either, because those through whose writings Norwich paints a picture of Venice at various times come from a broad spectrum of peoples, both artistic and not so artistic.
Megan
This isn't the book you'll turn to if you want a concise history of the city of Venice. But it is amusingly and intelligently written, and shares the stories of people I knew only little about, and suddenly wanted to know much more. Worth reading for the chapter on Lord Byron alone. ('now the sword outwears its sheath...')
Susan
I really enjoyed this Norwich book about Venice more than his other general history that I also just read. This was all about the great cultural and historic figures - Lord Byron, Henry James, Baron Corvo - who have loved Venice ( and Napoleon, who famously did not appreciate its charms at all!)
Ron
Of course I had to know what Venice was like in the 19th Century. Having visited the city and wanting to return, there was no doubt in my mind that this would add to my small perspective of Venice and the culture of Venice. For anyone who enjoy historical non-fiction, this is a good read.
Robert
great history of venice through the ages. lots of discussion of history, personalities and how they affected teh growth of the city. the city has transformed itself over the last few centuries and this is well discussed in this book. it took a long time to read.
Andy
Aug 23, 2007 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: italy
Every chapter of this book is about a historical person who spent time in Venice in the 19th century. I found the biographical sketches of people like Byron and Napoleon as interesting as the picture of Venice itself.
Lee
I wanted to read Norwich's history of Byzantium before I picked this up. Now that I'm done with it, I want to read it even more.
Mary Robinette Kowal
So far this is proving to be exactly the book I need for an overview of Venice.
Cynthia
Sad to end this book. A beautiful journey through 19th century Venice
Tiffany
Fun and gossipy and about Venice. What more do you want?
Pamels
Great footnotes.
Mhbright
Very entertaining.
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Norwich is the only child of the Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper and of Lady Diana Cooper, a celebrated beauty and society figure. Through his father, he is descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, Canada (as a wartime evacuee), at Eton College, and at the University of Strasbourg. He served in the Royal Navy
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More about John Julius Norwich...
A Short History of Byzantium Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy Byzantium: The Early Centuries A History of Venice Byzantium: The Decline and Fall

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