Customer Reviews for

The City of Falling Angels

Average Rating 3.5
( 71 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Venice Beyond the Guide Books

This was a great introduction to Venice before my first trip to Venice. Gives a glimps of Venice beyond the tourist guide books. As I read this book I felt I could see what Berendt was wrtiing about. Once I arrived in Venice I had a sense of deja vu. I traveled to Venic...
This was a great introduction to Venice before my first trip to Venice. Gives a glimps of Venice beyond the tourist guide books. As I read this book I felt I could see what Berendt was wrtiing about. Once I arrived in Venice I had a sense of deja vu. I traveled to Venice with two friends and they also read the book. They felt the same as I did. A trip to Venice would not be complete without reading this as well as the standard guide books.

posted by 2630114 on May 31, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

As much gossip as history!

I wasn't sure what I was going to read; but since Midnight in the Garden of Evil had been enjoyable, I expected the same. The books centers around the fire at the Venice Opera House, but never fully answers are the questions as to why, the complete rebuilding story, wh...
I wasn't sure what I was going to read; but since Midnight in the Garden of Evil had been enjoyable, I expected the same. The books centers around the fire at the Venice Opera House, but never fully answers are the questions as to why, the complete rebuilding story, where all the money for rebuilding came from, etc. Having recently been in Venice (and now regretfully not going in the new opera house, though we walked by it), it was interesting to read about the difficulties with the fire, the rebuilding process, other locations in Venice that are mentioned. I felt it ended up being more of a who-said, who-disliked whom book rather than completely focusing on the opera house itself.

posted by TBill on March 12, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Venice Beyond the Guide Books

    This was a great introduction to Venice before my first trip to Venice. Gives a glimps of Venice beyond the tourist guide books. As I read this book I felt I could see what Berendt was wrtiing about. Once I arrived in Venice I had a sense of deja vu. I traveled to Venice with two friends and they also read the book. They felt the same as I did. A trip to Venice would not be complete without reading this as well as the standard guide books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 12, 2010

    As much gossip as history!

    I wasn't sure what I was going to read; but since Midnight in the Garden of Evil had been enjoyable, I expected the same. The books centers around the fire at the Venice Opera House, but never fully answers are the questions as to why, the complete rebuilding story, where all the money for rebuilding came from, etc. Having recently been in Venice (and now regretfully not going in the new opera house, though we walked by it), it was interesting to read about the difficulties with the fire, the rebuilding process, other locations in Venice that are mentioned. I felt it ended up being more of a who-said, who-disliked whom book rather than completely focusing on the opera house itself.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful Insights Into the City of Venice

    I read City of Falling Angels a few weeks before my wife and I took our first trip to Italy. I didn't have much time for detailed research about Venice, but I wanted to get a taste of the city's history and culture.

    I couldn't have found a more perfect book in Falling Angels. While Berendt's tale is ostensibly focused on the fire that burned down Venice's famous Fenice Opera House, the story turns quickly into multiple threads all orbiting around modern and historic Venice.

    Berendt lived in Venice and so can provide a peek into a Venetian's view of life and existence within this unique city, but he never becomes a true Venetian and so is able to retain objectivity and perspective.

    I visited Venice as a true tourist, but as someone who wanted to understand what Venice is really like (beyond its reputation as an Adult's Disney World), I felt that Falling Angels added wonderful flavor to my brief taste of the city.

    The book is well written, very readable and has a strong sense of drama throughout. I highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Outstanding Contemporary Non-fiction.

    This book was such a wonderful read and an excellent view of Venice, and the Venetians lifestyles & La Fenice opera house history. It starts off with the fire that destroyed it all and the ensuing investigation as well as the rebuilding of it.

    John Berendt's great dispcriptive writing showed both sides of each depicted conflicts while interweaving each unique character. Berendt had given a lovely look and feel of Venice. I had always been fasinated by Venice's arts/culture & history. And this novel has brought my fasination to a whole another level.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2006

    After Midnight...

    Just like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this book focuses on a city oozing atmosphere and history. Arriving a few days after the great fire of the Fenice Opera House, BERENDT tells us the story of the investigation and subsequent trial. Along the way we meet and become attached to several characters, like Olga. More nostalgic than Midnight, the City of Fallen Angels is also perhaps more difficult to get hooked on but it is wonderfully and precisely written.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2005

    'COM'ERA, DOV'ERA'

    which is the Italian phrase meaning 'As is was, where it was' and introduces John Berendt's fine book THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS about the historically significant Venetian philosophy that affected the response to the rebuilding of the tragic fire that destroyed the opera house La Fenice 1996. Berendt is such a fine journalist with a definite novelist's bent that he manages to transport us to Venice where he not only investigatively reports on the fire itself, but also smoothly integrates the mood of the floating (or sinking!) city of Venice, Italy through the eyes and lives of many of the inhabitants. The result is an insider's look at what has for centuries made Venice the city of lovers and dreamers. Berendt moved to Venice shortly after the complete conflagration destruction of La Fenice in January 1996, not as a short term tourist, but as a long-term visitor, a fact which allowed him to not only report on the incident and the subsequent investigation of the origin of the fire, but also the Venetian neighbors who watched the fire, the people involved in the aborted reconstruction attempts and the final restoration of the opera house with all the original art and antiquities duplicated. AND all of the subterfuge and scandal involved in that seven-year process (the opera house reopened in 2003). But Berendt doesn't stop there. Along his journalistic route he reports on the museum that Peggy Guggenheim built, the people who took over the museum upon her death, the clash of classes, the lives of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, the Ezra Pound Foundation enigma, and the fascinating life of controversial poet Mario Stefani whose suicide by hanging initiated yet another investigation of occult mysteries, the type that makes Venice the fascinating city it is. During Stefani's last days he had created graffiti with a red paint can with the message 'Loneliness is not being alone it's loving others to no avail', and Berendt uses that bit of information to uncover truths to the many wills left by Stefani (among them wills assigning all his worldly goods to street hustlers who satisfied his lusts, to a small child Anna whose parents owned a greengrocer he frequented, to churches, preservation societies, etc). This is journalism at its best. But where Berendt really shines is in his poetic capturing of the sights and smells of Venice, the attitudes and demeanor of Venetians, the glory of the monuments and palaces, the gossip about the history of Save Venice and those who wrought havoc in attempting to disguise restoration attempts for personal gains. Even the Mafia is addressed! 'Everyone in Venice is acting. Everyone plays a role, and the role changes....The key to understanding Venetians is rhythm - the rhythm of the lagoon, the rhythm of the water, the tides, the waves...' This is a book to treasure with a slow read, a read that allows the mysteries and ambiguities of this 'wondrous strange' city to filter in through the vital information to the heart. Highly Recommended! Grady Harp

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    WONDERFUL CITY, WONDERFUL WRITING

    It seems like whenever there's a good book about a place, we're told 'It's so good it makes you want to go there.' John Berendt's first book, 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' apparently did that for Savannah. But in the case of 'The City of Falling Angels', I felt that even if I went to Venice a hundred times, I'd never get the kinds of insights I got from reading this book. Just the way Venice is so unlike any other place -- a tiny, canal-filled, floating museum of a city that once was actually a world power -- I learned that its inhabitants, perhaps inevitably, are equally unlike those of any other place. Nowhere but in Venice could I find Massimo Donadon, a 'chef' who cornered a whopping 30% of the world's rat poison market by studying different countries' food preferences -- and then making his rat poison taste like those foods, since that's what local rats grow to like after they eat a place's garbage. (Butter for France, pork fat for Germany, curry for India.) And apparently no one but Berendt ever discovered the entertaining, carnivalistic characters like him (and many, many others) -- even though several literary giants, such as Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Ernest Hemingway had their chances. And there's virtually nothing in 'Angels' that you can find in any book of its kind. Or any book, period. 'Angels also has its 'serious' side. It meticulously investigates the 1996 fire (accident or arson?) of one of history's most renowned opera houses. And while doing this, it gives us a basic cultural and political portrait of probably the world's most unusual city. It's obviously tempting to compare 'Angels' to 'Midnight' -- since it's also about a city, and 'Midnight' was such a record-breaking hit. But a much better reason is that it shows that Berendt isn't a one-shot wonder. Nor is he a writer who found subjects so rich that any first-rate writer could have made good books out of the them. It demonstrates that he's a writer who must now be recognized as one of the very best around. The elegance, ego-lessness, and spareness of his prose are the equal of any contemporary writer I can think of. His writing is never excessive or needlessly detailed -- and it never draws attention to itself or its author. After I finished 'Angels', I wondered what had made it so easy to read. A quick riffle of its pages gave me the answer. Whereas most of our best writers frequently confront me with huge blocks of type -- making me almost want to cry out for oxygen, or peek to see where one of those mountainous paragraphs ends -- Berendt's pages are pleasing to the eye. I know I'll always have breathing space -- and his rhythm will become my rhythm. It's a shame that his perfectionism has kept him from writing a larger number of books. (And God knows why he chose to start so late.) But one thing is now clear: He's someone from whom we can expect nothing but fine works. I just hope he doesn't make us wait so long again. Nevertheless, I'm grateful. Jack Winter

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    A Real Page Turner

    Captivating from the very first pages. Mr. Berendt paints a vivid picture of modern day Venice in decay. Very hard to put down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2008

    If you love Venice you should read this book

    The book opens in January 29, 1996 with the burning down of Venice's jewel: The Fenice Opera House. The Book ends on December 5, 2003 with the re-inauguration concert at the same structure after almost 7 years of reconstruction. What starts as almost a detective novel, trying to find the cause of the fire, quickly turns into a gossip manuscript of who's who in both Italy (specifically Venice), and the USA. Venice becomes the protagonist of the book, and its citizens become the pawns from an Italian Chess game as the Fenice is reconstructed. For those of you who love high society gossip, who's who in both American and European blue blood-this book is for you! For those of us, who could care less, Berendt's prose and storytelling abilities, still make it a wonderful read of leisure. Personally, I think this is as exciting as you could ever make non-fiction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2008

    NOT up to Midnight's standard

    Starts out ok but quickly loses steam. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a brilliant book. Brilliant! But this is really second rate. Honestly, I had a hard time finishing it. Really boring. The character development was not at all what it was in Midnight. The story of the city never really came together in my mind (and after visiting Savannah, I don't really think the story REALLY portrayed that city either, but it was STILL a great book) and nothing at all compelled me to even keep reading, much less learn more about Venice. A sadly disappointing experience.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2007

    A fascinating look at Venice and Venetians

    I read this book in 3 days. It is such a wonderful look at Venice, Venetians, the La Fenice opera house history, the fire that destroyed it and the ensuing investigation and rebuilding process. John Berendt's storytelling shows both sides of each depicted conflict while interweaving the signature look and feel of Venice. I liked Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil but I think this is by far a better book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2007

    Be there...in Venice...with John Berendt

    I literally couldn't put this book down. I am fascinated by Venice, its People and history, and have had the priviledge of visiting a number of times. The Author brings his reader to his side, and then invites the reader to accompany him on his adventures which are many and fascinating. His ideas which brought both of us into contact with so many Venetian people of all types each with his own glowing story to tell confirmed my place by JB's side. I had not read his first book, 'midnight....' before reading 'city...' and would probably not have been motivated to take up his second book....perhaps because the American setting is not one that I know. I've now read his first book, enjoyed it, and now have more understanding of the people and their lives lived 'as they lived' in this part of the US. However, what I really want to know is when will JB's next book be published...so I can reserve my copy?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2006

    If you love Venice, you must read this book!

    I love the sights and sounds of the wonderful and magical city of Venice. This book and its stories of all the eclectic people who live there, bring new depth and longing to be there again. I wandered the narrow streets and bridges with JB. I couldn't wait to find out each point of view in the tales he told. Life is never ending and never simple. I wanted more stories and was sad to finish such an austonding book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2006

    Really well written

    I so enjoyed 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' and was not disappointed in 'The City of Falling Angels'. Mr. Berendt has an engaging story-telling style. Since his story is non-fiction (and I think, harder to write entertainingly), it holds even more interest for me. Excellent book and a real treat if you happen to love Venice.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    Fabulous!

    The author is truly an artist. I often read reviews that talk about how masterfully written the book is. Upon reading the book, I find the brush strokes very broad - it is too easy to see how the author is trying to shape your vision. There are very few apparent brush strokes here, just a series of gorgeous pictures. Other amateur, (as am I) reviewers have decried the lack of stories about 'ordinary' people. Many of the characters in the book are quite ordinary, but the setting and their stories take them out of the realm of 'ordinary'. I anxiously await another book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2006

    Absorbing Venetian Canvas

    John Berendt paints another exquisite work of art. I hesitate to say a masterpiece because 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' continues to be his best book. But ' The City of Falling Angels' is not even close to being some second rate effort by a worn out writer. Berendt's Venice is a wonderful textured canvas upon which he brushes and layers incredibly intriguing non-fiction characters. The stories of the Massimo Donadon and Mario Stefani are two of his finer tales of comedy and tragedy worthy of standing alone and there yet are so many more to fascinate the reader in this book. Berendt's obvious appreciation for and intimacy with Venice and the many connected to it by birth or self-adoption is very apparent and is a great example of book-length reporting that is increasingly absent today. The features of a map, glossary and other addendum reference material included in these pages are very considerate of readers' needs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2005

    City of Falling Angels

    A witty and urbane tour through the private (as opposed to the tourist) Venice. Along with Berendt we encounter an extraordinary roster of Venetians and expatriates--the people who actually live in Venice. And what a collection of eccentrics and oddballs! I was hooked from the very beginning in which Berendt describes the spectacular fire that destroyed the Fenice opera house, as seen through the eyes of the people who were on the scene, including the 87-year-old master glassbower of Venice, who watched from his bedroom window a mere 30 feet away from the blaze and then went to his glassmaking factory and started work on a series of bowls and vases representing the awful fire. While he follows the twists and turns of the Fenice story--the investigation into the causes of the fire and the chaotic rebuilding of the theater--Berendt weaves in a number of other fascinating stories that reveal the mystery, the intrigue, the social climbing, the back biting, and the corruption seething in this magical and beautiful city. Couldn't put it down. Didn't want it to end. When is Berendt going to write another book? I hope it doesn't take another decade!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2005

    Fascinating and so well done

    This is a really great book. It is so well written and just a delight to read about the intertwined characters that make up the incredible city of Venice. I gave a copy to so many of my friends -- I would recommend this book to anybody look for a great read on a cold winter day. It's really really good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2005

    Didn't want it to end

    A witty and urbane tour through the private Venice. Along with Berendt we encounter an extraordinary roster of Venetians and expatriates--the people who actually live in Venice. And what a collection of eccentrics and oddballs! I was hooked from the very beginning in which Berendt describes the spectacular fire that destroyed the Fenice opera house, as seen through the eyes of the people who were on the scene, including the 87-year-old master glassbower of Venice, who watched from his bedroom window a mere 30 feet away from the blaze and then went to his glassmaking factory and started work on a series of bowls and vases representing the awful fire. While he follows the twists and turns of the Fenice story--the investigation into the causes of the fire and the chaotic rebuilding of the theater--Berendt weaves in a number of other fascinating stories that reveal the mystery, the intrigue, the social climbing, the back biting, and the corruption seething in this magical and beautiful city. Couldn't put it down. Didn't want it to end. When is Berendt going to write another book?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005

    Dysfunctional and Decadent Vienna

    John Berendt does a good job of capturing Vienna, the society, political, and legal system in Vienna, which appears to be largely dysfunctional and decadent, but just the way Venetians have been accustomed to live for many centuries, and the way of living they seem to want to preserve for the future. One also gets the firm impression that many Venetians oppose the international 'Save Vienna' set who are often uniformed about Venetian customs and ways of life, and often interested in only stroking their own egos, but who may ultimately be responsible for preserving Vienna in the long run. It is at times difficult to determine if Berendt is writing fiction or non-fiction because of the eclectic blending of many different minor characters in the story, and dialog that often takes place between the characters and author where the author always remains in the background. The book must be judged based on the fact that it is non-fiction, and that makes it difficult to review since it reads like fiction. There are perhaps too many minor characters injected into this book, and too many loose ends unaccounted for. The narration of the Rylands' questionable appropriation of the Ezra Pound library, and payment by Yale to acquire the material from them in a confidential settlement is interesting, and obviously required a tremendous amount of research by the author. His description of Venice neatly parallels the way life is actually lived in Venice by the Venetians. I definitely recommend the book for reading because Berendt offers a valuable insight into Vienna and the Venetian way of life. Com'era, dov'era. 'As it was, where it was.' Can the Fenice Opera House be restored as it once was? That too may only be an illusion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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