Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Venice: pure city

by Peter Ackroyd

What a prolific author! Scads of biographies, history, fiction (mostly historical), essays, books for children... and all books that require mountains of research. Rather impressive. He's written several books about London and the Thames River, in a style that's a sort of "biography of place," which is what this book is. I want to call it a biography rather than just a history of a place because it's a type of cultural history that looks not only at the people and events but also the character and spirit a place and the ethos of its people.

Venice has its obvious source of fascination, but so much more than geography makes it special — while at the same time the city's unique location and environment permeate and inspire its history, from its fourth century founding by refugees fleeing the Lombard invasion of Italy to the present day. Ackroyd's vivid, sometimes florid, storytelling style is perfectly suited to a place as colorful and unconventional as Venice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learned a lot, including some great 50-cent vocabulary words. A terrific nonfiction readers advisory suggestion, it brings to mind the notion of "armchair travel" with the bonus of travelling through time as well as space.

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