Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd
An interesting, but uneven stroll through Venice's past. Interesting, but at time the author sounds like a wind bag who doesn't really know what he's talking about.
My friend has written the most perfect review of this book, so I'll quote them below:
Ah, Venice! The most serene city.
Readers looking for a detailed history of Venice won't find it here. While it's impossible not to glean an overall understanding of the city's history, this book is mainly about the personality of the city and its inhabitants. It focuses more on the culture than on the events that make up its character. And character it is, for the book treats the city as if it were a person.
Another thing to be aware of is the writing is not the typical matter-of-fact style of non-fiction. There is a flair and abstractness that some may find irritating. And it is steeped in the author's personal opinion. While he seems to appreciate Venice, he doesn't hold back when he is describing something he doesn't like.
And the quotations. Oh, the quotations. I'm sure the writer scoured absolutely every written work that mentioned Venice and pulled something out to insert.
It's not a bad book, but I can see where some may find it off-putting. I wouldn't recommend it as a first book, or even second book, to read about Venice. But, if you have already read one or two and are looking for something to augment your understanding of Venice, then this would be one to consider. original review by SlowRain on GoodReads
I still enjoyed this book, because I almost enjoy every history book. I also have traveled to Venice twice already so I have some firsthand experience with the city which helps to visualize what Ackroyd's talking about. Every chapter is thematic, and not in chronological order which is jarring though. To me this book feels more like historical fiction at times with large amounts of theories and opinions that Ackroyd lays out there without any apparent sources. As a history book, it feels super light and not very detailed. I wish it was more detailed. The cover of the hardcover edition is pretty beautiful though. I also appreciate history books with many illustrations and pictures.
My friend whose review I quoted earlier recommended these other books to learn more about the history of Venice:
- Venice: A New History by Thomas Madden
- A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich
- Venice: A Maritime Republic by Frederic Lane
- City of Fortune by Roger Crowley [about Venice's overseas territory]
Rating: ★★★ Book #28 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge