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Paradise of Cities: Venice in the Nineteenth Century

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  100 Ratings  ·  22 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
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Apr 03, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This is a collection of chapters about notable English and American expats who lived in Venice in the 1800s. It's supposed to reveal the character of the city. At the end, the author wonders if he focused too much on the eyes of the people instead of the city through their eyes. The answer is yes. It's a far too detailed account of the lives of a bunch of people, several of whom are only significant for having been a big part of the expat scene. But most of what he talks about for each one is th ...more
Dec 09, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing
"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
Zach Wong
Jul 21, 2015 Zach Wong rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 16, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it
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
Jul 18, 2010 Christopher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
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
Jun 29, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
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
Dec 02, 2014 Tony George rated it liked it
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.
Dave Riese
I'm going to Venice in May and I want to find the places that the great English authors visited when they made the Grand Tour of Europe.
Aug 08, 2010 Katie rated it liked it
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.
Dec 20, 2011 Jessica rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 03, 2008 Gavin rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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.
Oct 10, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it
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...')
Dec 03, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: italy, history
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!)
Jan 25, 2009 Ron rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 10, 2011 Robert rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 23, 2007 Andy rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Nov 13, 2011 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Sad to end this book. A beautiful journey through 19th century Venice
Mar 14, 2012 Tiffany rated it really liked it
Shelves: venice
Fun and gossipy and about Venice. What more do you want?
Jun 16, 2008 Pamels rated it really liked it
Great footnotes.
Aug 23, 2013 Mhbright rated it liked it
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
More about John Julius Norwich...

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