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The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice Paperback – April 1, 2014
"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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"She can write, fantastically well. . . . Venice deserves this dose of perspicacious pragmatism." —Spectator
- Paperback : 208 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780719808784
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Product Dimensions : 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-0719808784
- Publisher : Robert Hale (April 1, 2014)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0719808782
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,800,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Polly Cole and her family did not simply dream the Venice dream, but actually did it, moving there and living there for a full year and for the benefit of those of us who actually loved her book, really made it almost like being there ourselves, except we didn't have to personally suffer the flooding and the vast inconvenience and the frequent disdain and all the other negative aspects of the experience, either actual or emotional.
I was irresistibly drawn to the book by its beautiful cover, and this was one example where the visual promise was well-founded. Based on this book, I can hardly think of a more beautiful writer than Polly Cole. For one thing, she is utterly honest, telling it like it is full on and not caring the slightest about "political correctness" or any other useless filter (for example, gypsy beggars!) and for that, alone, she deserves some kind of literary award. We are treated to being brought inside her brilliant and perceptive mind and that means that we are really there with her in Venice, and in many ways more so than if we were actually there ourselves, because there is always the potential that we (or, at least, I) might go stumbling along concerned with only our own personal and somewhat circumscribed affairs. Polly Coles has a much broader and more generous view.
But beyond just that courage and strength of expression, I was absolutely smitten by the pure glorious skill of her prose. This is not a writer who uses what I think of as "cliche descriptions". She absolutely used the precisely needed words and painted glorious pictures with her descriptions and some of those were so hilarious that I worried about choking to death on my laughter. She nearly killed me in the section where she described the things she saw, or thought she saw, while hanging out her laundry. But I also found much delight in her description of the effort of moving family belongings from the train station to their apartment, so realistic and so silly, but how else was one going to do what they were doing, anyway? This applies also to something like having a washing machine delivered and an old one taken away (for those who have to do it) (another hilarious adventure). In many ways, Venice has not progressed even into the era of the industrial revolution (except for, oh my God, do they have the most fascinating development of boats--bus boats and police boats and fire boats and garbage boats and dirt-hauling boats and delivery boats, all uniquely Venetian); virtually every single thing must, in the end, be transported to and from a person by human power. This is not even the era of the horse and buggy or, if you are Peruvian, the llama. It's people doing it. There are almost as many dollies and people-pushed carts in the narrow streets and around the corners of Venice as there are boats on the canals.
And it is all a structure, people, culture, and lifestyle in danger, decay, and decline, very much in need of and highly worthy of preservation, and Polly Coles does a serious job of showing how the various affects of tourism greatly add to that destruction. Of course, that could be so many places around the world and mostly all people want to do nowadays is find the secret non-ruined non-tourist spots of the world. But who going to Italy (for the first time, anyway) would consider not going to Venice? I, myself, started my whole eight-city Italy trip with Venice. If I were to go anywhere, that is where I wanted to go, and I certainly want to go back, as well. But Polly Coles is such an impressive writer that I think she does have the power to get people to stop and think about it. Maybe they won't go back to Venice at all; they will be able to find a different but still appealing charm in, say, the Cinque Terre. Or maybe they will decide they just can't sacrifice their visit to Venice, but they'll choose to experience a less heavily-touristed season (that would probably be my solution). It is due to the writing skill of Polly Coles that people would even have these considerations. At least for me, how it worked is that her adventures in a way satisfied for me my Venice dream (and also made it more realistic) by enjoying a year of her family's experiences, while also giving me a good excuse if I succumb to the gravity of my 95% chance of never doing it myself. I can enjoy the guilt-free experience of a year in Venice and not even have one more particle of Venice crushed under the steps of my feet. That's pretty ingenious, if you ask me!
For every reason, then, I recommend this book for anyone who loves, or thinks they might love, Venice. As for me, I can say that now I love Polly Coles!
The book contained many fascinating stories, but left me feeling guilty for having been a day tripper to Venice. Although the story was told about a family, it somehow lacked warmth and a real voice, so I would only give it three stars. It is, however, well worth reading for anyone who has been to Venice.
Top reviews from other countries
It's an enjoyable, quick, easy read. Anyone with an interest in Venice will find something to enjoy here, and a lot to get irritated about. I think the average review score of 3.8/5 is about right.
The stories about what it's like to actually live in Venice were great. The frequent moaning about how tourists are ruining the city was tedious and more than a little hypocritical.
What's the point in criticising the people that want to come and see the city? The only people who could do anything about the 'problem' would be the politicians who could, at a stroke, change the rules regarding property ownership and rents. That's not the direction of travel, though, is it? Unless you're living in Switzerland. Or a few other places.
Nonetheless, I'd recommend anyone who likes/loves Venice to read this.
The author turns the people of Venice in to surly and bad-mannered caricatures, whereas the people I know and have met couldn't be nice and friendlier.
I agree that the volume of tourists visiting Venice is unsustainable, but that is also true of many tourism hot spots and isn't unique to this city.
Perhaps the author was trying to put people off visiting by painting such a miserable picture of life there.