Monday, 31 October 2011

Donna Leon's Venice

When we went to Venice, I took with me Donna Leon's A Question of Belief, her 19th novel set in Venice and featuring Commisario Brunetti.  It was a good choice - alongside the crime story, there are descriptions of Venice from Brunetti's point of view. Venice is a small city and the streets he walks along, the churches and campi he passes, the vaporetti routes he uses, we had seen ourselves.  Her books give you some sense of what it is like living in that extraordinary city - although of course, being crime novels, they feature a lot of things that you hope never to encounter, either in Venice or anywhere else.  (And Brunetti doesn't like all the tourists one bit, so you sometimes feel slightly guilty that you are adding to the over-crowding.)   

An example of a convincing detail:  Brunetti is following a woman who has just come out of a bank  to see where she is taking the money she has just withdrawn.  She "stood in front of the bank, caught in that characteristically Venetian moment of calculating the shortest way to get somewhere."

A Question of Belief takes place in the height of summer, with the temperature in Venice approaching 40°C.   While we were waiting (not for very long) to go into the Basilica of San Marco, I recounted an episode when Brunetti walks through the Piazza and sees a very long queue of tourists outside the Basilica,  He tries to imagine never having been inside, and whether in that case he would feel that it had been worthwhile to wait for an hour in 40°C temperatures to see it for the first time.  He concludes that he would, which was reassuring.

Since we got back from Venice, I have been reading some of Donna Leon's earlier novels (while knitting socks).   The 20th has been published this year, I think, so they will keep me busy for a while.

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