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Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  293 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
"A sheer testament to the power of the written word." (The New York Times)

Giacomo Casanova's energy was dazzling. He made and lost fortunes, founded state lotteries, and wrote forty-two books and 3,600 pages of memoirs recording the tastes and smells of the years before the French Revolution-as well as his affairs and sexual encounters with dozens of women and a handful
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 20th 2011 by TarcherPerigee (first published October 16th 2008)
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Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook-and-audio
I got through this by listening to Benedict Cumberbach read it to me and it was probably a lot better that way.
Frau Blücher
Stark gekürzte, aber unterhaltsame Biographie des alten Schwerenöters Casanova. "Stellen"weise hat der geradezu lasziv entspannte Vortrag in mir solche Reaktionen provoziert:

Was soll ich sagen? Ich steh auf geschmeidige Stimmen... *rotanlauf*
Casanova is fascinating to people for stories of his romantic/sexual exploits. This bio addresses some of the most notorious of those as well as tell of his adventures throughout Europe and his back and forth relationship with Venice. It shows him as a hedonist and an opportunist with a big ego and an extravagant lifestyle. Very interesting and entertaining and well, Benedict Cumberbatch is a great narrator as well
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The name Casanova comes with a lot of baggage. After reading this book, it turns out Giacomo Casanova was not that different than the others guys in his time, he just took the time to write it all down. He did not sugarcoat it most of the time either, if he messed up, he wrote about it. Casanova's life reads like an 18th century travelogue. There were not many travellers back then, so when an individual visited the staggering amount of cities he did, people can learn many things from his writing ...more
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow - what a life. Enthralling, mischievous and sometimes a little creep creep. It's a 4.5 from me.

Sometimes I find biographies a bit overwhelming with too much detail and research gone into them - not to say that this book did not have all the research but it read so easily like a gripping story on its own. Mind, this might be because it's hard to believe that some of the stuff Cas got up to were anything but fiction - that naughty devil.
(Review courtesy of

The story of Casanova writes as myth outweighing reality. In his time, he rattled pearls and purses as he swaggered through eighteenth century societal balls and beds, leaving intrigue to knock on my door.

Giacomo Casanova begins his life as a young cleric, only to begin a scandalous affair with a married woman and forced to run to Constantinople. From there, he creates scandal after scandal as he shares his travelogues and conquests with men and
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Like most people, when I hear the name Casanova, I think of sex. Ian Kelly offers a more rounded view of a fascinating man who has come to be defined by a single facet of his complex life.

Casanova’s autobiography, “The History of My Life”, offers more than the story of one man’s life. It allows us a unique glimpse into the life of people from all walks of life during the eighteenth century. He mingled with prostitutes and kings, actors and bishops, a Tsarina and famous courtesans, nobility and t
Mar 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Myself, book club
I liked this's a 3.5 rounded down to a 3 just because it wasn't written as a story...I'd much rather have read it from the first person. I saw this book as I was browsing the book aisle at Costco, which I do once a week and the title caught my eye. I love historical fiction and I thought to myself I don't know anything about Casanova...besides the obvious. I had no idea he was so many things...or that a person in that time could travel so much. Just reading about him moving around from ...more
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting biography of the famous lover, Casanova read by the multi-talented Benedict Cumberbatch. Aside from my enjoyment of Benedict's wonderful voice, I was amazed at the life that Casanova lived. The fact that he lived to be an old man is astonishing in itself!
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an assignment to create a report for a study group to which I belong. It was fascinating! The amount of traveling Casanova did in the 1700s is alone remarkable. Add to this his adventures, both sexual and otherwise, and you can't help but have an interesting read.
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
See my review on my book blog:
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just a lovely, well written, thoughtful, informed and impressively researched book. Casanova will charm you.
Leigh Roberts
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, best historical biography I've ever read
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a reputation that precedes him, without fail, all readers comes to Casanova with a preconceived notion of him either as the suave seducer with little regard for his partners – a description more accurate of Byron – or that of a philandering fraud who lucked his way through the beds and courts of 18th century Europe. Ian Kelly, however, does not cast Giacomo Casanova as either, nor as swashbuckling, depraved, or the loveable rogue. The key lies in Kelly’s observation of Casanova’s sex life, ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are at least two aspects of this book to recommend it.
The first is its recreation of life in the gilded cities of 18th century Europe--Venice, Paris, London, Rome, St. Petersburg. The second, of course, is the account of all the romantic adventures, with all the salacious details one would hope, that made Casanova the lover of legend.

The story opens in the most serene republic of Venice, a city filled with actors, singers, dancers, and masked revelers, and the author claims that while Casa
This book follows the life and sexual escapades of Giacomo Casanova, using Casanova's own memoirs as Ian Kelly's main primary source, often backed up or enhanced by other contemporary letters, memoirs, diaries, etc.

Casanova's charm immediately shines through on the page, and it's hard not to like him almost instantly. He is the ultimate lovable rake, who doesn't just use and throw away women, but falls a little in love with all the women he beds and often cares for them and protects them along t
Oct 05, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Ian Kelly's fascinating biography of the world's most famous lover and libertine.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 26 Jun 2008.

Blurbification - Giacomo Casanova: one of the most beguiling and controversial individuals of his or any age. Braggart or perfect lover? Conman or genius? He made and lost fortunes, founded two state lotteries, wrote various plays, philosophical and mathematical treatises, opera libretti, poetry, and forty-two books. His 3,600 pages of memoirs recorded hundreds of m
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Note: I don't know if the version I read is abridged or not.

I only heard the audiobook version because of Benedict Cumberbatch. I honestly had no interest in this type/genre of books, but once in a while a random book may come in my way and when I read it, I fall in love with it, and want more.

However, if this was read by any other person I may have lost interest in it from the first chapter. It wasn't as appealing as I thought. There's not much to say. It's just so.. overdramatic. It's as if Ca
Mar 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is hard to rate. While is had elements that I respect and enjoy: great writing and meticulously executed research, it also faced the challenge of condensing a whole life full of adventure into one mere volume. On this, I would have preferred a different approach. It simply had too much detail in places to read non-stop. I read this over a few weeks.

Sections were fascinating, particularly about the political and thought culture at the time, however I could rarely read a whole chapter withou
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
It's a miracle! I'm finally finished with this book. Although I liked parts of this book it was dense and long. I chalk it up as good for me because of the history, which I'll admit was very interesting. I did learn quite a bit about life in the 1700s - like how they traveled, lived, and a little about the food. It was also fascinating to learn about the use of condoms back then and some of the names for them. I'm excited for some fiction!
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging portrait of an 18th Century man living by his wits. I learned as much about the world Casanova inhabited as I did about the man. I enjoyed the author's ability to put Casanova in the context of his times, his peers and the social mores that should have inhibited his behavior. That the man hopped rather lightly between the demimonde and nobility is a story in itself. Travel, food, books, Free masons, Kabbalah- and all the writing! Fascinating.
JoAnn Spears
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is very readable and very interesting. I think I differ from the author on the point at which oversexed and adventurous bleeds into creepy pathology when it comes to Casanova's seamier side. The old psych nurse in me gives me a clinical point of view, I suppose.
Michelle M.
Really quite difficult to read. Very boring. I know it's a biography and all, but the actual memoirs are by far more interesting to read. The intermezzos although were quite fullfilling and informational about 18th century history in a general perspective.
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very well-written biography of Casanova. The author places him squarely in his time and gives the reader some background about the times in which he lived. This was an easy and very interesting book to read - not the lesat bit boring.
Elly Sands
It's not quite fair to give a rating to a book you could only get halfway through. The most interesting part of the book was the history of Venice during the 18th century. Unfortunately,and to my surprise, I found Casanova to be an unlikeable man so I got bored reading about him.
Apr 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting life did Casanova lead. I had no idea he was such a world traveller. Interestingly written biography, yet made ever more vibrant and intriguing by the power and eloquence of Benedict Cumberbatch and his pleasant voice.
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book but it lost its charm near the end unfortunately. However I stuck it out and over all it was a good read and interesting. I would still recommend this to anyone with an interest in Giacomo Casanova and his antics.

Still worth the 5 stars.
I came to this book full of pre-conceptions about what would be contained within the pages. I felt I already knew what I'd read, however I was wrong. It turns out that he was no different to most of the men of that period; he just took the time to write down his escapades. A surprisingly good read!
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know, this guy is my hero.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Again, the rating reflects my appreciation for the text as if I'd read it, not the fact that I listened to it being read by the heavenly voice of Benedict Cumberbatch.
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Ian Kelly is a multi-award-nominated actor, writer and presenter of TV documentaries. He is the Sunday Times Biographer of the Year 2008-9 (Casanova). He is currently filming the last of the Harry Potter films as Hermione's father, he transfers in the National Theatre's production of The Pitmen Painters to Broadway in 2010.
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