The City of Falling Angels
The author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil returns after more than a decade to give us an intimate look at the "magic, mystery, and decadence" of the city of Venice and its inhabitants
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It was seven years ago that Midnight in the Garden of
Good and Evil achieved a record-breaking four-year run
on The New York Times bestseller list. John
Berendt's inimitable brand of nonfiction brought the dark
mystique of Savannah so startlingly to life for millions of
people that tourism to Savannah increased by 46 percent.
It is Berendt and only Berendt who can capture Venice-a
city of masks, a city of riddles, where the narrow,
meandering passageways form a giant maze, confounding all
who have not grown up wandering into its depths. Venice, a
city steeped in a thousand years of history, art and
architecture, teeters in precarious balance between
endurance and decay. Its architectural treasures crumble--
foundations shift, marble ornaments fall--even as efforts
to preserve them are underway.
The City of Falling Angels opens on the evening of January
29, 1996, when a dramatic fire destroys the historic Venice
opera house. The loss of the Fenice, where five of Verdi's
operas premiered, is a catastrophe for Venetians. Arriving
in Venice three days after the fire, Berendt becomes a kind
of detective-inquiring into the nature of life in this
remarkable museum-city-while gradually revealing the truth
about the fire. In the course of his investigations,
Berendt introduces us to a rich cast of characters: a
prominent Venetian poet whose shocking "suicide" prompts
his skeptical friends to pursue a murder suspect on their
own; the first family of American expatriates that loses
possession of the family palace after four generations of
ownership; an organization of high-society, partygoing
Americans who raise money to preserve the art and
architecture of Venice, while quarreling in public among
themselves, questioning one another's motives and drawing
startled Venetians into the fray; a contemporary Venetian
surrealist painter and outrageous provocateur; the master
glassblower of Venice; and numerous others-stool pigeons,
scapegoats, hustlers, sleepwalkers, believers in Martians,
the Plant Man, the Rat Man, and Henry James.
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