1 January 2022 Susannah

Novels set in Venice

Novels set in Venice

I have recently enjoyed reading Water Music, a novella by Australian author Christine Balint, which is set in 18th century Venice. The heroine takes up a position at a convent, which is a prestigious musical orphanage for girls, and she trains as a violinist there. I had no idea such institutions existed and was interested that there were places which gave professional musical training to women. The novella was well written and evocative.

Venice is such a glorious city and a beautiful setting for novels. L.P. Harley (author of The Go-Between) fell in love with the watery city and went there annually for years (he especially liked the handsome gondolieri). His novel Simonetta Perkins is about a woman who falls in love with a gondolier. Sally Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel is another lovely novel set there, focussing on one of the city’s many ancient churches. Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice doesn’t give quite such a rosy view of the city, but is a powerful piece of writing. And there’s Henry James’ The Aspern Papers and The Wings of the Dove – both of those works have been filmed.

If you’ve never read Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series of crime novels, that’s a lovely summer reading project for you. She brings Venice alive, and you want to immediately rush to Brunetti’s apartment, with its view of the water, and sit down to enjoy one of Paola’s memorable meals. I think Covid has been good for Venice – it stopped those huge cruise ships which disgorged thousands of tourists into crowded streets. Those tourists slept on the ship, ate on the ship, and apart from buying some Venetian glass, did little to support the local economy, and the ships polluted the lagoon. Donna Leon has moved away from the city she so loved because the crowds had become impossible.

Do you have any favourite novels set in Venice? Do let me know by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Novels set in Venice – Canal Grande and Rialto Bridge, Venice, by Martin Falbisoner, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63018640
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Comments (16)

  1. Tiny

    Dear Susannah,
    Thank you. I loved “The two of us” from the SMH.
    I think you’ve got the top Venice novels here. Do you know Gregory Dowling’s two 18th century mysteries: Ascension and The Four Horsemen?
    All the best,
    Tony

    • Susannah Fullerton

      No, I don’t know those two books – more to add to my list. Thanks Tony, and Happy New Year.

  2. Rosaleen Kirby

    Susannah, you have not included the utterly terrifying The comfort of strangers. I have to admit I don’t think I have ever read the book (Ian McEwen) but there was a film with Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson which was horribly sinister, echoes of Don’t look now, of course, also set in Venice and adapted from a Daphne du Maurier short story. The canals at night present such fearful possibilities.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have not read the book or seen the film. I can’t bear scary films, so am not sure I’ll add it to my list. I can just imagine how scary the canals could look at night in deserted alleyways!

  3. Patricia Farrar

    Oh Susannah! How could you forget Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith. Her descriptions are so vivid I actually felt I was there and reminded me of the film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now. So there are two additions to you list. Best wishes, Trish x

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have never read the Highsmith novel, so obviously must add that to my list. Thanks Trish!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, so must add City of Falling Angels to my list.
      Happy New Year Jenny.

  4. Robbie Clarke

    The Stone Virgin by Barry Ainsworth, The city of falling angels by John Berenndt& Dead Lagoon by the brilliant Michael Dibdin

  5. Gemma Tonkin

    I Have all but two of the Donna Leon books..They are a walk through Venice. I think she must be up to thirty books by now.
    I am reading a first novel set in Venice ‘The Book of Unholy Mischief..Too soon to make a comment on it as only started it last night…Last time I was in Venice a few years ago i visited the church of The Angel Raphael where the frescoes are,that Sally Vicars based her great novel of Miss Garnets Angel.. I loved your reccomendations

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I loved Miss Garnet’s Angel and have also enjoyed Sally Vickers’ book ‘The Librarian’, though that one isn’t set in Venice. I must go and see the frescoes next time I visit.

  6. Marilyn Nalder

    Haven’t read any books on Venice but visited just before the pandemic hit. It would be my favourite city with so much history. Would love to go back there one day.

  7. Cecily Dean

    I thoroughly enjoyed Michelle Lovric’s The FloatingBook which is set in Venice. I think she’s written others set in Venice but I haven’t come across them. I read it some time ago but I think it was set in the Renaissance and German brothers set up a printing business in that beautiful building on the Grand Canal that has been the post office. Cecily.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That sounds good – anything about books and the making of them appeals to me. Thanks for the recommendation.

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