The latest two novels from prolific Donna Leon are the first of hers that I have read. They do not disappoint. Who can resist the glorious, civilized life in Venice, the most romantic city on Earth?
It almost goes without saying that the city of Venice is as much the central character as Commissario Brunetti or any of the other mortals in the story. While most of us will never live in Venice, we all may dream of it. And the feeling of place, as well as the struggles to keep the city vibrant for its people, touch all of us. We all live somewhere, and perhaps cherish our home as much as Leon’s people love Venice.
The stories themselves are cases for (now aging) Commissario Brunetti, his colleagues, and family. The pace is generally slow and eccentric. (Even other Italians find Venice to be different.) Whether this is a realistic picture of Venetian police procedures I can’t say (likely not), but I’m sure we would all wish them to be this way. So civilized. So beautiful. A “Venetian life”, as Leon told Sylvia Poggioli in 2012.
Leon is a beautiful writer, and she is writing about the city she loves. The prose is smooth and compelling and the characters and dialog attractive (if not necessarily realistic). Leon’s love for Venice comes through in her portrayal of the beautiful life there, and the very real problems of tourism, decay, and gentrification. It isn’t easy living in a theme park.
I wish I could write this well.
- Donna Leon, Falling In Love, New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015.
- Donna Leon, The Waters of Eternal Youth, New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016.
Sunday Book Reviews