Lead Review

  • Book: The City of Falling Angels
  • Location: Venice
  • Author: John Berendt



The Fire at the Fenice Opera House on the Monday evening, 29th January 1996 is at the heart of this wonderful account of post fire Venice. Was it arson, was it negligence? John Berendt trawls the evidence, meets some wonderful people as he trails the calli and campi of Venice, and traces bits of history with myth and memory interwoven into the fabric of his story – this is like a tapas of interwoven stories.

We meet the Curtis family, 4th generation Americans who came from Boston; the Volpe family who have been inextricably linked with the development of the city in more recent times. We meet the rat expert whose company has to deal with infestations, who enthuses about the discoveries he makes about rat eating habits (American rats love popcorn, Italian rats love Nutella, plastic (!) and Parmesan, Dutch ones love Salmon and cheese – but none will eat the food popular with the others).

We learn of Jane and Philip Rylands who allegedly insinuated themselves into the company of Ezra Pound’s widow and appeared to take control of all his papers and memorabilia. Berendt tells the story of the two electricians finally charged with setting the fire at the Fenice, Carella and Marchetti; and of Gianni Agnelli (head of the Fiat Empire) who tendered for the rebuilding of the Fenice but didn’t get it.

Eight years of rebuilding, shenanigans at every twist and turn, and the first opening concert after the rebuilding was held on the day that Saddam Hussein was discovered, 14th December 2003….

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A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

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