Mar 2010 – A Lit List – 5 Favourite Novels set in Venice

Venice is a location that I adore in books. 

We visited Venice in 2005, and it’s just as fascinating in real life. The picture, above, was drawn by my daughter (who had just turned five), after experiencing crossing the canal on a traghetto ferry gondola.  For a five year old she nailed the perspective didn’t she!  

Here are five books set there that I’ve enjoyed with links to my reviews where available. Click on the title to go off to explore at Amazon UK (affiliate links).

Glassblower Murano Marina Fiorato1. The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato, which I reviewed here. This was Marina’s first novel and follows the story of a newly single artist going to Venice to learn the skills of her ancestors, and in a historical strand we hear the ancestor’s story of how he escaped the guilds to go an make the mirrors at Versailles. It was a great read and Marina herself is a real character as she’s been to Abingdon twice now with her books – the third must be due soon I hope.

2. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. This is the first of nineteen novels (at current count) featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti who has to solve the murder of a Maestro at Venice’s opera house. I always get the feeling that life in Italy’s cities is full of bureaucracy and petty battles between all involved in government. You either embrace it or try to ignore it – Brunetti does the latter and it is his ambivalence and refusal to join in office politics rather than kicking against the system that makes him such a refreshing maverick detective! There are now well into double figures of titles in this series now, I’ve read the first four (all pre-blog).

3. Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers, in which a spinster, Miss Garnet goes to Venice on an extended holiday after the death of a friend. There she falls in love with an angel in a Raphael painting, and undergoes a series of epiphanies, discovering a new side to herself as she encounters an Italian art historian Carlo … Alongside Miss Garnet’s awakening, Vickers tells the story behind the painting which is a scene from the Book of Tobit which has many parallels with Miss Garnet’s situation. It’s a subtle novel, and I really enjoyed it. (Read pre-blog.)

4. The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick, which I reviewed here. Sedgwick is possibly my favourite YA author and this was the first book I read by him. It’s set at the end of the 18thC during Carnevale (approaching Lent) and features proper vampires – the real monstrous ones of Eastern European tradition. It’s a great adventure, and the dankness of Venice in winter really comes through.

5. The Lying Tongue by Andrew Wilson.  Twists and more twists, this literary page-turner starts off innocently, when young Adam takes a job in Venice as assistant to a reclusive writer. However, he’s drawn in by his employer, wanting to uncover his life-story and there the plot thickens!The reader is wrong-footed at every turn and the result is a literary mystery of the highest order which is reminiscent of both the play/film Sleuth and the novels of Patricia Highsmith. In fact, Wilson has written a well-received biography of Highsmith called Beautiful Shadow which is on my shelves.

Venice is the setting for so many books.  I’ve read plenty more, and yet more lurk in my TBR.  You can find an extensive list of novels set in Venice at the website Fictional Cities.

Which are your favourite Venetian novels?

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