The City of Falling Angels
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~
American writer John Berendt made the charts in 1994 with his first nonfiction book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a real-life murder mystery set in Savannah, Georgia. It was phenomenally successful, occupying the New York Times Best-Seller list for 216 weeks, and was made into a movie in 1997 directed by Clint Eastwood.
John Berendt’s second nonfiction book, The City of Falling Angels, came over ten years after Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The City of Falling Angels is set in Venice, Italy, and, as with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it’s full of local color and eccentric real-life characters.
Venice is one of the most unique cities in the world. It has been in existence since about the eighth century. It’s a quiet city because, with canals instead of streets, it has no automotive traffic. The people of Venice walk wherever they go, or take the vaporetto, the water taxi. Venice is a quaint and romantic city abounding in history. It was at one time a powerful city state. Many of its buildings are hundreds of years old.
In 1996, a historic Venetian opera house, Teatro La Fenice, over two hundred years old, caught fire and was entirely destroyed. Investigators, of course, had no clue as to what caused the fire. Was it the result of natural causes, or were sinister forces at work?
At the time of the Fenice fire, the theatre was closed to public performances and was undergoing renovation. The fire happened at night, when any daytime workmen had departed. Because the buildings in Venice are so old and so close together, many other structures were threatened by the fire. Firefighters eventually brought the fire under control, but the opera house was destroyed. Would it be possible to rebuild it as it had been before the fire, or was it a case for the wrecking ball?
The City of Falling Angels follows the years-long investigation into the fire, with many twists and turns, many false leads and conspiracy theories; much finger-pointing and gnashing of teeth.
Sometimes The City of Falling Angels veers off into subjects other than the fire, such as a Venetian glass-blowing family of many generations, a Venetian poet who committed suicide, the Ezra Pound Foundation (he was an expatriate American poet who lived in Venice), or in-fighting among the Venetian upper-crust. During these long digressions from the fire, we wish to return to the subject at hand. The fire is much more successful at holding the reader’s interest.
Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp