This book could have been so much more than what it ultimately turned out to be. The plot ostensibly centers on the fire that destroyed the Fenice ope...moreThis book could have been so much more than what it ultimately turned out to be. The plot ostensibly centers on the fire that destroyed the Fenice opera house in Venice, and the mystery surrounding the cause, with elements of italian life woven into the story. On the plus side, the author clearly did his research on the fire, the Fenice, and in fact moved to Venice to conduct his research. Unfortunately, the book turned into a cross between the author's personal travelogue with a tell-all of the expat community living in Venice. I kept reading, expecting (from having read this author's work in the past) that he would tie it all together artfully at the end. Nope.
The book started off very strong. The story of the fire of the Fenice was fascinating and very well told. The follow on development of the people and circumstances surrounding the fire were interesting and well done. When the book started to wander, I stuck with it, thinking that there was more of a thread than what was apparent to why the author was going into such great detail about marginally (and that is generous) characters. When the book went on and on and on and on about Ezra Pound and his mistress, I was befuddled. What does this have to do with the fire? Why am I reading this book? Hoping for redemption in future pages, I forged on. Then we get completely embroiled in the organization once known as Save Venice. Like the story of Ezra Pound's mistress, this vignette focused heavily on the politics and arguments of the members of the organization, largely ex-pats. What does this have to do with Venice, or Venetians? Very little as it turns out. The Venetians and the history and culture of the place were always a bit part backdrop in this book. Which is why I found it exceedingly frustrating and disappointing.
I love the italians, in all their chaos, colorfully led lives, vivid imaginations, sense of style, passion, and wonder. For a book that purports to center on an event in a mysterious and historically rich part of the country, this book fell short. (less)
Both English-to-Italian and Italian-to-English translations, verb guide including the irregulars, numbers, fractions, and the occasional colloquial ph...moreBoth English-to-Italian and Italian-to-English translations, verb guide including the irregulars, numbers, fractions, and the occasional colloquial phrase. Very handy.(less)
Lengthy tomes like this are not my cup of tea, nor is the time period (110 - 100 B.C.), otherwise I would give this a higher rating. If you are a fan...moreLengthy tomes like this are not my cup of tea, nor is the time period (110 - 100 B.C.), otherwise I would give this a higher rating. If you are a fan of ancient Rome then this would be a worthy read. The character development is excellent, and better than I expected for the subject time period. The glossary is worthy in its own right and very helpful ingiving a lot of background detail that helps bring the reader along, so that you do not need to be a scholar of the period to understand the background. That said, the one thing I wish were better maps, just a personal preference. For series fans, those with an interest in ancient Roman politics, and McCullough fans, this is an excellent book. (less)
The first part of this book was a bit of a slog but overall a great book. Standing in St. Peter's one can only imagine what all went into the design a...moreThe first part of this book was a bit of a slog but overall a great book. Standing in St. Peter's one can only imagine what all went into the design and construction of such a magnificent structure. This book has all the back stories of the majesty, engineering, construction, corruption, artistry, bickering, financing, political and papal schemes and plans, and the historical backdrop of the more than 150 years and countless characters it took to construct it. Well-researched and written, the author has a knack for bringing the primary characters into light. I am still stunned by the construction and engineering marvel it represents.(less)
I never tire of reading his books. The ONLY reason I gave this one four stars is that my favorites of his are "Immigrant's Return" and "Wine and the G...moreI never tire of reading his books. The ONLY reason I gave this one four stars is that my favorites of his are "Immigrant's Return" and "Wine and the Good Life", which I do not see as choices on goodreads or Amazon. (less)
Perhaps part of my enjoyment of this book can be attributed to the fact that I am part Tuscan and appreciate the unique cultural perspective of Italia...morePerhaps part of my enjoyment of this book can be attributed to the fact that I am part Tuscan and appreciate the unique cultural perspective of Italians generally. This was really a great book. At once it is a serial murder mystery, an indictment on the Italian judicial system, perspective on the dynamics of how police investigations are pursued, and slices of Italian life told through the perspective of an American and Italian journalist. It leaves you wondering if the Italians are all form over substance so a wonder they can even catch a cold! The actual scene descriptions are a bit ghastly. And who knew there was so much sex going on in the parked cars on country roads overlooking Florence? At one point during the murders they contemplated building walls and putting polizie up there, not so much to catch the murderer, but to give these people a place to have their piece in peace. God bless them. It’s quite a lively and entertaining book for a historical account of a serial killer. And you know the Florentines are all shocked at the possibility that a psychopath may live among them. They are so refined, they all immediately assume it must be a foreigner, of course! And the turf fighting between the polizie and the carabinieri is classic. Oh, and there is one guy who confesses to being the monster's accomplice and then turns state witness so of course they 'protect' him by putting him up in Arezzo free room, board, and vino. Turns out he is the village idiot of where one of the suspects is from and no one figures out until he has been living the life of riley in Arezzo for like a year. Wonder why the Italian government is broke and corrupt? OMG! There was an afterward which addresses the Amanda Knox situation (American college woman studying in Perugia recently convicted of killing her roommate.) Made me reevaluate my opinion of that situation. There is a lot going on in this book but well written and easy to read. Page turner beginning to end.(less)
very disappointing book. anticipating that it was as billed, and would walk through the cultural and social phenom of the italians "in all their glori...morevery disappointing book. anticipating that it was as billed, and would walk through the cultural and social phenom of the italians "in all their glorious paradoxes," it is a series of random and inartful descriptions based on the authors encounters in post WWII Italy. his chapter "all in the family?" instead of examining the strong family ethic of the italian culture is largely centered on notorious affairs of the aristocracy, sexual assault, and a brief nod to a couple of well-known family businesses - Gucci, United Colors of Benetton, and Fiat. early in the book there is a relatively interesting explanation of the tension between north and south, but it faded after that, sadly. after the 'family' chapter i skimmed the rest and didn't see anything compelling further inspection. (less)