Even during the dominance of the Roman Empire, Venice and Venetians were regarded as distinct by their neighbors. They spoke Latin, and later Italian, in an unusual dialect. Their geographic position as an island in a lagoon contributed to their fierce spirit of independence, but it also positioned them to control trade routes to and from the East. Ackroyd, the novelist, biographer, and writer of tributes to great urban centers (London), has captured the rich tradition, beauty, and vibrancy of this magnificent city in a survey that combines political and artistic history with aspects of a travelogue. Ackroyd moves back and forth in time as he examines the growth of Venice, from prehistoric settlement to its place in both the Roman and Byzantine empires to the present time. As he describes the development of the art and architectural treasures, he includes informative and charming diversions on various traditions, events, and personalities. For those who have visited or hope to visit the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” this work will be a treasure. --Jay Freeman
“Ackroyd — the marvelously erudite and staggeringly industrious English writer — [has compiled] an encyclopedic amount of general and arcane factual information and then [arranged] it less chronologically than thematically — much as one might encounter it in the course of a long walk over fascinating terrain in the company of a knowledgeable but never pedantic companion. It's an experience rendered all the more agreeable by the independent turn of Ackroyd's critical imagination and lapidary quality of his prose.”
—Los Angeles Times
"Peter Ackroyd fully explores one of the world’s most undeniably glorious cities.... Like his acclaimed London
, Ackroyd’s account isn’t a chronological history of this charming Italian metropolis. The structure and style of Venice
is engagingly impressionistic and digressive.... Magnificently crafted."
—The Boston Globe
"[Venice: Pure City
] is a swarm - a storm - of dazzling details that coalesce into an artful picture.... Ackroyd's is a glittering introduction to Venice. There is not much new that can be said about the city, but Ackroyd says it with ripeness - like those Venetian pears, only now it is the reader's appetite that is whetted. Godspeed."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Ackroyd's marvelous book certainly adds to the allure of this magical metropolis."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Peter Ackroyd understands Venice, perhaps even better than modern Venetians. Venice: Pure City
is a grand biography of a subject that is as complicated and labyrinthine as Venice’s tiny alleyways. It is impossible not to get lost there, and that is why Ackroyd may have been the best person to write such an insightful book.... He approaches Venice the way a scholar would a historical figure, because that’s what Venice is. Yet he isn’t locked into a timeline: He enjoys pushing the tides of history back and forth. It’s an engaging technique."
"Thoughtful, thorough and insightful, [Ackroyd] is at least as much interpreter as historian. He brings this iconic city to vivid life ... While Venice is by no means an orthodox traveler's guide, it's a wonderful introduction to a city that has cast a particular spell since the fifth century ... A portrait so vivid it's aromatic ... Intoxicating."
"In an effortless style, [Ackroyd] seamlessly stitches the storied city's crazy quilt of past and present. The watery origins, the architecture that rises and seams to float on a sea of glass, the early settlers and the key players are all rendered with a historian's curiosity and a novelist's feel for plot."
—The Free Lance-Star
“Ackroyd provides a history of and meditation on the actual and imaginary Venice in a volume as opulent and paradoxical as the city itself. . . . How Ackroyd deftly catalogues the overabundance of the city’s real and literary tropes and touchstones is itself a kind of tribute to La Serenissima
, as Venice is called, and his seductive voice is elegant and elegiac. The resulting book is, like Venice, something rich, labyrinthine and unique that makes itself and its subject both new and necessary.”
Praise from the UK:
"Ackroyd is hugely intelligent and formidably industrious; there can be few people, Venetian or foreign, who know Venice better than he." —John Julius Norwich, The Telegraph
"Ackroyd covers an immense amount of ground with verve and elegance." —The Independent
"Venice tends to provoke extreme reactions. People love it or hate it. Ackroyd’s response, however, is pleasingly complex. He observes his subject with a forensic yet morally neutral eye. You can tell he is fascinated by the place; but he is not blind to its many flaws." —The Times
"Irresistible, entrancing, occasionally weird but undeniably grand." —Literary Review