Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brava, Donna


Just finished Acqua Alta by Donna Leon. The title refers to the high waters that flood la Serenissima so often when it rains heavily and the water has nowhere to go.

Not normally a fanatic of mysteries, I was attracted by the setting, Venice, such an atmospheric city.

The book turned out to be a delight, especially on the train to work with some Handel on the MP3 player as a soundtrack (this particular mystery involves an Italian opera diva, Flavia, and her female lover, Brett, who is an expert in Chinese antique ceramics).

Storyline aside, what I really enjoyed was how Leon paints so many subtle aspects of Italian culture and attitudes, whether it's a mafioso's son from (where else) the south referring to a Venetian as a polentino (polenta being a dish served in the north of the country), or the small details of red tape, grappa, and just the day-to-day family life of Commissario Guido Brunetti, the recurring inspector from all her stories.

The next time I pick up a book of hers, I'll have my city map of Venezia handy, to trace Brunetti across the campi and down the calle.

Grazie, Donna, un lavoro ben fatto.

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