The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
Venice is the city of falling angels—literally carvings falling off of buildings, possibly on your head if you weren’t careful. The main focus of the book is the fire that burned the Fenice opera house, the reactions of Venetians and those from outsiders like the Americans in Save Venice, the non-profit organization that raised funds for restoration of Venetian art and architecture, as well as the following investigations, legal battles and eventual restoration. The author functions as a sort of informal detective—since the cause of the fire was first judged to be carelessness and then arson—but he can’t do what Venice itself can’t do, determine the cause and assign blame, make a restoration plan. Since the author was living in Venice much of the time between the fire and the restoration (1996-2003) he comes to know the place and the people increasingly well and the book is not strictly that of the fire, the quest to assign blame and the restoration, but about Venetian history and life now.
I got bored with the American socialites who jockeyed for power and acceptance by Venetian society, but the story of the theater itself was interesting, the legal battle to assign blame frustrating, and many of the other stories, particularly that of Ezra Pound and his companion of 50 years, Olga Rudge, and their “hidden nook”, fascinating.