Monday, September 30, 2013

"Venice: History of the Floating City," by Joanne Ferraro

“Venice: History of the Floating City” is strictly an academic affair.

Author Joanne Ferraros's enthusiasm shines through and she feels the poetry of Venice, cites it often, but doesn't quite conjure it in this work.

Read together with a novel about Venice, let's say, Gabriele D'Annunzio's “Flame of Life,” this book would help put things in high relief: make clear where the fabulous fabric hailed from, valuate the rank of a fading Countess's family, explain why the shipyard is an important place.

Someone with a basic of knowledge of Venice will find their stores greatly increased after finishing this work, which does a top-to-bottom examination of the city's political and social structures. It covers Venice's rise through war, trade, and Mediterranean colonialism. It restores the profiles of novel thinkers, forgotten by time, to their rightful place in the history of the floating city.

Without knowing much about Venice-related scholarship (the author shares the perspectives of others with her readers) this book may be breaking new ground by putting in historical perspective the contributions and tribulations of women (they were many) during the rise and plateauing of Venetian might.

Similarly, we get a glimpse of what life was like for the poor, the unmarried and others who didn't fit a rather strict of behavior determined by a group of wealthy folks on high.

Which is to say the rich and powerful, as always, have their story told, but the contributions or aspirations of the weak or marginal are given air time, too.

Not to say this book is some Marxist tract. The author enjoys and revels in the commerce the once-great city-state engaged the world through and provides a comprehensive account of how Venice raked in treasure and how it was spent.

“Venice,” will not grip you. The “story” of the city is subject to the business of correctly ordered facts, and necessities that don't always thrill, but ensure the record accurate. It is worth the effort to take a chapter-by-chapter approach and marvel at the beauty of things past Ferraro has curated, and at the horrors, too.

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