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The City of Falling Angels

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  14,507 ratings  ·  1,737 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 brand
Paperback, 414 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  14,507 ratings  ·  1,737 reviews

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Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
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
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
May 20, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jul 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: recommend
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
Jul 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, italy, venice
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
Brendan Monroe
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lightning DOES strike twice, though perhaps not for John Berendt.

The author is best known for writing the mega-bestseller (and Pulitzer Prize-finalist) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for YEARS. Berendt had the great fortune of hitting it out of the park with his very first book, or was that actually a great misfortune, as anything Berendt could hope to write subsequently would pale in comparison to Midnight's otherworldly success?

In th
Jill Hutchinson
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
The author, as he did in his smash best-seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, begins with a major event and then builds a multi-layered story of the city and people involved. In this case it is Venice, Italy and the destruction by fire of the historic Fenice Opera House. The Fenice was a beloved landmark and its destruction was heartbreaking for the Venetians. Was it arson or was it an accident caused by careless workmen?

The author moved to Venice three days after the fire to write a b
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
*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
Meredith Holley
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
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is as much about Venice and the people who live there as it is about the Fenice opera house fire. The author introduces us to many interesting people, both the native Venetians of all classes and the various expatriats who call Venice home. It was interesting to learn about the city's history and art, as well as its present day politics and culture. The investigation of the opera house fire wasn't as compelling as the murder mystery in the the author's previous book, but it still was i ...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.
Paul Secor
Jul 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Inevitable that this would be compared to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Somewhat of a falling off, probably because Berendt found more interesting weirdos in Savannah than he did in Venice.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
Berendt's previous book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was an international bestseller and I loved it to pieces. That, and not the fact that I'm a second generation Italian American, is why I decided to read this book. And I regret that decision.

The City of Falling Angels uses the exact same formula as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Berendt gives us a biography of a city told through the lives of some of its most colorful citizens, all set against the backdrop of a crime--a
Erin Reilly-Sanders
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Gossipy history of Venice in the late 20th century with a focus specifically on the destruction of La Fenice in a great fire and its subsequent reconstruction. Entertaining, but ultimately rather pointless.

The similarity hadn't occurred to me when I picked this up, but as I was reading, I realized that in 10 years or so a similar book may well be written about Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Aug 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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....
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Meh- more of a travelogue on Venice
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Having recently visited Venice, Italy, I was glad to read a book which brought back to me gondola rides on the canals, the romance of evening city lights, and Murano glass. Berendt's book book covered much more of course, the opera house fire, political feuds, quirky residents, and more. I got to read the stories behind the rich tapestry of what Venice is. And that's good.
Apr 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Too many "stories" swirling madly around the canals; the prosecco writing is flat.
Carrie Doyle
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Berendt is an amazing writer and his nonfiction reads like fiction. His details and descriptions are beautiful and vivid.
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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

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