"Anyone who loves Venice, is a true Venetian... even a tourist, but only if the tourist stays long enough to appreciate the city."
So says Mario Stefani, one of the myriad of characters that populate John Berendt's latest book. If he is correct, then, John Berendt must be a true Venetian. Berednt spent years in "La Serenissima," investigating the occurence of the fire that burned the Fenice theatre on January 29, 1996. His investigation takes him to a variety of places, exploring Venetian culture and history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The book meanders; often one wonders, "what does Henry James have to do with the burning of the Fenice? But the characters are intriguing. John Berendt has a gift for observing and describing people, and he does this to perfection in The City of Falling Angels. There are the two ex-presidents of the Save Venice Foundation, dedicated to the saving of Venice as well as a petty quarrel over the running of the foundation; a glassblower whose family has been in the business for centuries; the so-called Rat Man, who has invented a fool-proof recipe for killing rats; the First Family of American ex-patriots, the Cabots, who have been living in the same palazzo since the 1880s; electricians; politicians; mafiosi; lawyers; and many more.
John Berendt interviewed scores of people, getting the story from several different viewpoints. Its difficult to realize, sometimes, that this is a work of nonfiction. All these people are (or were) real; Berendt proves that sometimes real people are more interesting than those who are created in the imagination.