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My Venice and Other Essays

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  573 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Donna Leon has won a huge number of passionate fans and a tremendous amount of critical acclaim for her international bestselling mystery series featuring Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti. These accolades have built up not just for her intricate plots and gripping narratives, but for her insight into the culture, politics, family-life, and history of Venice, one of the ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published December 3rd 2013 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.45  · 
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Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, essays
Donna Leon and I have a strange relationship. She's nowhere near the top of my list of favorite detective writers, yet I've read six of her Commissario Brunetti mysteries (sort of how I really don't like Rent all that much, yet through an odd combination of circumstances have seen the show three times). Her books always leave me feeling unfulfilled, even though at this point I should know better than to expect miracles from them. But I keep coming back to her books, hoping to find that really ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
A group of essays divided into six section, Leon writes of everything from trash collecting, obesity, opera, apartment nightmare and yes, even dog poop. Her love of Venice shines through even as she espouses on the various negative practices of her neighbors and government. Despite all its faults, as she states in the first section, there is no place else she would rather live.

Her love for animals is apparent in many of the essays, whether it be dogs,ducks or fish. Some of these essays are
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Leon reminds us what we, the masses, like about the internet and TV criticism today: it is not always politically correct. Leon makes no attempt to please everyone. She is just telling us what she thinks about, and she doesn’t mince words. The woman who writes fascinating and thoughtful police procedurals that dramatize critical issues of our time is intelligent and opinionated. Her personality is out there for us to “take it or leave it.” I like people with considered opinions.

Because Leon is
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
As a big fan of this author's novels, I was shocked by the mean-spiritedness displayed in many of the essays in this book. I well recognize the many faults of our country, but I was quite put off by her blatant contempt of the U.S. Of course, she lives in Italy, the epitome of beautifully-governed, perfectly functioning, and flawlessly-operated life! As far as contempt for tourists, one might well point out that Venice LIVES ON TOURISM! Amazon review uses the word "curmudgeonly" but as a ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Donna Leon, to quote her own words, is a harpy. Basically all these essays were written so she could complain about something. She hates American b/c our president (re Bush) is dumb and our people are fat. I'm gonna invoke the Dixie Chicks clause here - bash America all you want, but do it from America. Don't move to Venice for 30 years and still feel like you have a say in how our country is run. The only essay worth anything was the one about Saudi Arabia.

I'm going to Venice is two weeks and I
Ralph Pulner
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Quaint. Having no interest in opera but seeing it written with such passion was rewarding. I can now talk about Handel as if I knew what I was talking about.
Sep 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I admit that the main reason I was eager to get my hands on this book was to see if the author revealed anything of significance about her personal life, past and present. I’ve known for some time that Donna Leon has led an unconventional life, having lived in a variety of countries all over the world before at last settling in Venice. I’ve always been curious about what prompted her to lead this peripatetic existence, so alien to and remote from her native land.

So, what did I learn from this
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed these short essays. She is definitely not afraid of expressing her opinions. Once or twice I found myself re-reading a few lines, as if to say "Did she really say that"? The essays are short - some only a couple of pages long, and include topics as diverse as operas, animals, life in Saudi Arabia, housing in Venice, hunting, and the death of Lady Di. No photos.
Sep 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
Donna Leon is the author of the Guido Brunetti series of mysteries which are set in Venice. I love Venice, and I love the characters in her books, but I do not love the author.

I have a personal policy of not reading biographies or autobiographies of people I like or admire because I don't really want to know what's behind the curtain. I should have followed my own rules on this one. This book 't so much about Venice, as it is a series of rantings about the things the author despises, which is
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Oh, dear. This, for me, is a case of "Don't get too close to your idols, for you will be disappointed." I love Donna Leon's Brunetti mysteries; I own all of the books of the series, and I have an advance galley of the newest one waiting on my Kindle app. I've read interviews she's given, and I can't say I was surprised by the overall negative tone of the pieces in this book. Some of them I liked (the section "On Venice" was really what I was in it for, and there is an interesting essay in which ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm really enjoying Donna Leon's take on the world. Maybe because many of the things (most?) which make her "vengeful, spiteful and violent" make me the same way. But there are lighthearted wonderful parts too, like her experiences with most animals, some people, and Handel operas. And the section on men...well, you just have to read it.

Re-reading, but had to take it back to library before finishing. Will check it out again. In fact I may just buy it, I enjoy it so. Lovely bedtime reading but
In the earlier essays in the book (can't tell what order they were written in), Leon came across as strident and humorless. However, as I read I became more in tune with her style and approach and enjoyed reading her opinions and observation about the many topics she covered. An interesting, quick read.
It can be either an interesting or a tedious experience to read a book from an established novelist in which he/she resorts to non-fiction to expound upon themes touching upon life, men and women, poverty, family, home, books, and music.

In "My Venice and Other Essays", the celebrated mystery novelist Donna Leon speaks with an unflinching honesty on subjects as varied as her beloved Venice (which she has made her home for the past 30 years), animals, men, music, her native land (the U.S.A.,
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I wish I hadn't read this book.

I really enjoy reading the Brunetti series. I take comfort in Guido's devotion to his family, and his persistence in doing the best he can at his job despite the barriers of Italian corruption, the willful ignoring of serious and inhumane social conditions. He gets a little depressed and overwhelmed by the hopelessness sometimes, but he eats another fine meal with his family or in a small restaurant with a friend and he is back on the case, undeterred. We all live
Oct 31, 2014 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, essays
I REALLY didn't like this. I originally picked this up to learn more about contemporary Venice from the perspective of an expat, but most of the "On Venice" section consists of Donna Leon complaining about garbagemen, her neighbors, tourists, gamblers, and anything that remotely bothers her. If I hadn't been so tired of her, the tourist essay might have made me laugh:
Granted, they do kill people, but here I must imitate my government’s callous disregard for civilian deaths and argue the
Oct 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
I’ve enjoyed every one of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti mysteries, so I was looking forward to getting a deeper understanding of Venice in particular and Leon’s philosophy of life in general from her essays. But this book was disappointing. Most of the pieces in this collection are not well-developed essays, but short musings or observations – some even seem more like diary entries. Many are mere snippets that would serve better as local color in one of her novels than as stand-alone ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
As with a number of Donna Leon's 'other' publications I've gotten the impression that they are just something she's doing for to make more money...maybe so w/ the money dedicated to her passion - Baroque music. That's fine; I bought the book and glad of it but I wish she'd try harder. Especially since I've just finished Ann Patchett's assembled (her declaration, not mine) book of previous stories, musings,, opinions etc and was far Far more engaaged by both the content and the writing ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, italy
Waspish, highly opinionated commentary that resonated with me. Two pieces in particular made reading this book worth my time all by themselves - " No Tears for Lady Di" and "On Sprungli and CNN". This collection of essays recalls to mind a quote attributed to Alice Roosevelt Longworth "If you can't say something good about someone sit right here by me." This title is a sure fired cure for bland and boring politically correct opinion writing.
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. I did like the early section about Venice and the essay on Saudi Arabia but the tone of this book began to wear me down.
If I want to read mean spirited essays by an American expatriate living in Italy, I will go back and read Gore Vidal. He was funnier and more thought provoking.
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Veered between acerbic and boring.
John McDonald
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This crisply written series of random thoughts about animals and men, Venice and opera, and other subjects Leon feels worthy of her opinion might surprise Guido Brunetti's fans, not because of what she says about Brunetti or the other characters who appear in her books--she says nothing about any of them--but what her commentary indirectly says about her. At one point, when she spoke of a deceased aunt who lived nearby Ms. Leon in Newark, New Jersey, I was reminded of the Brunetti's character ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
I've read a number of Donna Leon's Brunetti books, whose strengths are their descriptions of Venice and the gentle kindness of Brunetti. Their weaknesses are plentiful--mundane plotting; the relentlessly perfect Paola; the completely unbelievable computer whiz Elettra, who is little more than a plot device to bring facts to light that Leon can't figure out how to manage any other way; average writing; a general lack of memorability--but the strengths have brought Leon a strong fan base. (That ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
First, definition: These are NOT "essays" as the title indicates; they are beginnings of thought jutted down in haste. Most are one page and a half, the longest about five pages. They go no where.
Second, quality: These are the most un-thoughtful thought exercises I've read in a long time. No one HAS to be kind, either in writing or in life; but both are better if you are. There's not a kind thought about anything here, not the her adopted city Venice, or her Venetian neighbours, or her family,
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I might have given this four stars: it's somewhere in between the two. I love Donna Leon's writing, especially her evocative Guido Brunetti books set in Venice, which feel like a holiday there every time you read one.

So this collection of essays was a slight disappointment. The essays on Venice started brightly enough, but I felt the volume descended into a series of rants about how environmentally polluted Venice is, from rubbish, from large boats, from visitors, you name it. She doesn't like
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
To be fair, the subtitle does say "and Other Essays" but there's less Venice here than I would have wanted, as someone who picked this up due to the Guido Brunetti novels. And what there is of Venice is mostly domestic, rather than any more cultural appreciation of the City that might provide more of an insight into why Donna Leon chose to make it her home. I would have liked to read more on that as she writes well about e.g. the glories of Mozart. For the rest, it appears that Donna Leon is ...more
She wrote mysteries centering on Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti, one of which I have read. I love a book about a place I have been and Leon takes me through the streets, over the bridges, through the piazzas of one of the world's great wonders, the unique city of Venice, Italy. While Mary McCarthy gave a very academic view (worth reading for sure), Leon introduces the reader to Venice's people and tells some tales of an insider who has lived in the city for a long, long time. As an expat, I ...more
Anders Hanson
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
For fans of Donna Leon's brilliant Commissario Brunetti crime novels, this book will come as a surprise. But for me it was a very welcome one. Whilst Brunetti has never been twee, the Donna Leon that you see in this book is not the polite and well mannered person you might expect. In this collection of essays and anecdotes she doesn't worry about controversy and she isn't afraid to say out loud things which if we're all honest are probably closer to what we've also often thought about our fellow ...more
Daniel Palevski
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Picked up this book ahead of my trip to Italy, but didn’t end up getting to it until after I left. However, I ended up falling in love with this book right away . As I’d reflected on my favorite parts of the trip - I immediately new it was Venice; Donna Leon’s first essay in the book helped me understand why. Because there are no cars in Venice, it’s far more walkable and intimate than the overwhelming majority of modern cities. Chance encounters and friendly conversations are far more likely ...more
Anne Pytlak
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This should have the title have Essays, including a few about Venice. I expected more about the city. But, there's still some insights here that are fascinating. You won't agree with all her opinions, but it makes for interesting reading. I will say, however, her bitterness gets irritating after a while. She seems to be a "glass half empty" person.

I also found her to talk out of both sides of her mouth sometimes...she hates animal abuse but laughs when a man covers a neighbor's dog's fur in
Al Maki
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thinking, places
A rarity, a series of short journalistic pieces that I read straight through without stopping or becoming bored. Generally, even my favourite authors bore me by about the fourth article in a book of collected journalism. These pieces are about such things as Venice, Music, Men, Books and America. While the central characters of her mysteries are warm and humane people, she herself seems to be acerbic, salty and funny with a fine sense of pacing and timing.
I enjoyed it so much I'm tempted to give
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Donna Leon (born September 29, 1942, in Montclair, New Jersey) is an American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice and featuring the fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over twenty-five years. She has worked as a lecturer in English Literature for the University of Maryland University College - Europe (UMUC-Europe) in Italy, then as a Professor