Richard Davenport-Hines

The Floating World

Venice: Pure City


Chatto & Windus 387pp £25 order from our bookshop

Peter Ackroyd has the gift of transmuting other men’s sober research into the golden sentences that make his books on men and cities so irresistible, entrancing, occasionally weird but undeniably grand. His researchers, Thomas Wright and Murrough O’Brien, have toiled for Venice: Pure City, but it is Ackroyd who has turned their diligence into effulgent, mesmeric, satisfying prose.

The book opens with a heady evocation of the wild Adriatic lagoon in the aeons before there was a city, with its mud flats, salt marshes and sand banks, the preserve of fowlers and fishermen. In the eighth century BC there arose a scant trade in amber, wax, honey and cheese. An invasion of Venetia by Lombards led to wider settlement in the sixth century. ‘The settlers fenced the soil with planks and poles; they drained the water; they laid down building rubble or sediment, or sand from the dunes; they erected wooden palisades to resist the sea. It was the beginning of the city.’

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,