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The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt

The City of Falling Angels

"Beware of falling angels" is the sign
that greeted visitors to Venice before restoration was completed on the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, and it provides the title for John Berendt's captivating exposé of the social elite of this city of mazes and masquerades. La Fenice, Venice's historic opera, destroyed by fire three days prior to Berendt's arrival in January of 1996, becomes the focus of his investigation of the enchanting, haunting, enigmatic city and its aristocracy. Fire investigators uncover evidence of arson, but in the course of talking to witnesses, restoration activists, and city officials, Berendt discovers the elements of a fascinating mystery which he retells in this audio book.

What he finds beneath the surface of the popular tourist destination is a city inhabited by characters as diverse as the master glassblower, Archimede, who witnessed the fire from his window and used it as the inspiration for a dramatic series of new pieces, Peggy Guggenheim, the eccentric American art collector, performance artists, Italian politicians, Ezra Pound's mistress, and wealthy Americans who support restoration projects. As he's warned soon after his arrival, "Venetians are only telling the truth some of the time."

John Berendt is well-known as the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and just as we experienced Savannah through his eyes, it feels very fitting to hear him narrate his interpretation of Venice's magical allure. This abridgement is done very well and leaves no noticeable gaps.

Venetians may never forgive John Berendt for revealing inner secrets of the habitants of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but the very portrayal that may anger Venetians is what will mesmerize listeners. I would recommend this audio book to anyone who has enjoyed or plans a trip to Venice or who is interested in celebrity gossip, social politics, or the restoration of historic sites. Of course, anyone who qualifies on all counts will be delighted.

Ruth Mormon

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