Venice: Book summary and reviews of Venice by Peter Ackroyd

Venice

Pure City

By Peter Ackroyd

Venice
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2010,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial—a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice, the ultimate city.

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 readers 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—reading Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] history of and meditation on the actual and imaginary Venice in a volume as opulent and paradoxical as the city itself...rich, labyrinthine and unique." - Publishers Weekly

"This is a pleasant read but too formless for anything more serious."- Library Jounral

"Ackroyd is hugely intelligent and formidably industrious; there can be few people, Venetian or foreign, who know Venice better than he." - The Telegraph (UK)

"Ackroyd covers an immense amount of ground with verve and elegance." - The Independent (UK)

"Venice tends to provoke extreme reactions. People love it or hate it. Ackroyd's response, however, is pleasingly complex. He observes his subject with a forensic yet morally neutral eye. You can tell he is fascinated by the place; but he is not blind to its many flaws." - The Times (UK)

"Irresistible, entrancing, occasionally weird but undeniably grand." - Literary Review (UK)

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Author Information

Peter Ackroyd Author Biography

Photo © Charles Hopkinson

Novelist, biographer, and poet Peter Ackroyd was born in London on October 5, 1949.

He graduated from Clare College, Cambridge, and studied at Yale University as a Mellon Fellow, where he completed Notes for a New Culture: An Essay on Modernism, published in 1976. On his return from Yale, he worked for The Spectator magazine in London as literary editor (1973-7), then as joint managing editor (1978-82) and film critic. He is chief book reviewer for The Times newspaper and a regular broadcaster on radio. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 1984.

Equally acclaimed for both his inventive biographies and his formally diverse fiction, Ackroyd blends past and present, fact and fiction in his writing.

He also displays a genius for literary impersonation, both in his ...

... Full Biography
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