Reading Up on Venice

Reading Up on Venice - Venice, Italy

Learn about Venice before you visit the canaled city and impress everyone in your circle. We've assembled a Venice Top Five booklist here, with books by Sarah Dunant, Thomas Mann, Marlena De Blasi, John Berendt, and Andrea di Robilant.

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Venetian Bookworm Top Five

1. In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

Take a dwarf, a Roman courtesan with swallowed jewels in her stomach, invading hordes of Spaniards and Germans, and a desperate flight to Renaissance Venice's twisting alleys and miasmic canals. Add a mysterious, blind healer, an old adversary, and a wealthy patron, and you've got the major characters of "In the Company of the Courtesan." Who can resist a plot description like this one?

2. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

If you didn't read it in school, you should give "Death in Venice" a look now. It's the story of an older writer's obsession with a younger Polish boy he meets in Venice. There's a tragic outcome. We could say more, but we won't.

3. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi

"A Thousand Days in Venice" is an unlikely but apparently workable love story between a chef from St. Louis and a banker from Venice who barely speak one another's languages. Read this (skim the sometimes cloying and breathless prose) if you want Venice to remain romantic without the sinister atmosphere that permeates "Death in Venice."

No romance involving a chef would be complete without some recipes, and De Blasi obliges in this regard. She includes recipes, encouraging readers to relive culinary Venice long after they have returned home.

4. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

Venice's characteristic, watery melancholy has its American counterpart in Savannah, Georgia, the city Berendt made famous in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Like "Midnight," this, too, is populated with the sort of people one can only call characters. "Angels" centers on a high-profile trial of the arsonists suspected of burning down the Venice Opera House.

5. A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant

A stash of love letters hidden away in a moldering Venetian palazzo was the inspiration for this true tale of forbidden and doomed love between nobleman Andrea Memmo and the half-English Giustiniana Wynne. Expect Casanova, secret handshakes, French convents, illegitimate babies, and rigid class systems mixed into the plot. Basically, you'll never look to telenovelas for drama again.

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