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Venice: Pure City [Audio]
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The Venetians' language and way of thinking set them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. This latest work from the incomparable Peter Ackroyd, like a magic gondola, transports its listeners to that sensual and surprising city. His account embraces facts and romance, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges, and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the festivals and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and its trading empire, the wars against Napoleon, and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the glassblowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the artists-Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo; and the ever-present undertone of Venice's shadowy corners and dead ends, of prisons and punishment, wars and sieges, scandals and seductions. Ackroyd's Venice: Pure City is a study of Venice much in the vein of his lauded London: The Biography. Like London, Venice is a fluid, writerly exploration organized around a number of themes. History and context are provided in each chapter, but Ackroyd's portrait of Venice is a particularly novelistic one, both beautiful and rapturous. We could have no better guide-enjoying Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city.
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About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of Thames, London: The Biography, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, several successful novels, and the Ackroyd's Brief Lives series. Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over eight hundred audiobooks and has earned five coveted Audie Awards, and he has won fifty-seven Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named him a Golden Voice.

Reviews

Italo Calvino once wrote, "Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice." Maybe that's why Ackroyd's new book is more enjoyable than his recent Thames: The Biography. Nonetheless, it's more a string of essays than one coherent book. Ackroyd interweaves history with impressions (some quite apposite) on a host of topics about living in Venice: the light and color, Carnival, prisons, prostitutes, death, the Venetian republic's extraordinarily long existence, artists, and the claustrophobic life of the city. He writes exceptionally well at points: he's always been a master of the apercu, and his comments on Venetian art and architecture in particular are perceptive though by no means original. His sources are often vague or missing altogether. He errs twice, calling Philippe de Commynes "an ambassador from fifteenth-century Flanders" and "a traveler from the court of Burgundy," when, by 1495, the year Commynes visited Venice, Commynes had served France, not Burgundy, for 23 years. Perhaps it's a minor error, but it leads one to wonder what others lie hidden in this largely undocumented description and history of Venice. VERDICT This is a pleasant read but too formless for anything more serious. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/10.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Novelist and biographer Ackroyd (The Canterbury Tales) provides a history of and meditation on the actual and imaginary Venice in a volume as opulent and paradoxical as the city itself. Structured and organized with a fluidity that reflects its many-faceted subject, he launches his tour de force with the basics of Venetian geography, hydrology, and climate before turning to history and architecture. The narrative continues to develop around themes both usual and unexpected such as trade and gossip or subjects such as the city's fabled churches, its love of sexuality, and theater. As it glides along, it gracefully incorporates tidbits about such traditions as the cabins on gondolas and the masks worn during Carnival. How Ackroyd deftly catalogues the overabundance of the city's real and literary tropes and touchstones is itself a kind of tribute to La Serenissima, as Venice is called, and his seductive voice is elegant and elegiac. The resulting book is, like Venice, something rich, labyrinthine and unique that makes itself and its subject both new and necessary. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

"A loving yet clear-eyed celebration of the enigmatic icon on the Adriatic." ---Kirkus

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