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Donna Leon does Venice

If you've never been to Venice, Donna Leon's mystery series will make you want to go. If you've been to Venice, her books will make you feel like you are there again. She evokes the ambiance of Venice beautifully--it is almost another character.

They are easy reads so perfect before bed or in a sidewalk cafe in Dorsoduro, but well written, with an admirable hero and a host of interesting secondary characters. You'll experience the Italian view of Venice, not the tourist side.

Start with "Death at La Fenice." I bought it in a bookstore in London 25 years ago...and then spent the next decade looking for and requesting US bookstores carry her books. These days you can find them everywhere. A must read for Venice travelers and Venice lovers.

Posted by
1260 posts

I agree! I don't read many mysteries but I love Donna Leon's character driven stories.

Posted by
5534 posts

And when you are really into her books, buy a Donna Leon cookbook with recipes featured in the stories. The meals Paola Brunetti creates for Guido and the children can be replicated!
In fact, we went to a Brunetti dinner party one time, all dishes made from these recipes. We love Donna Leon’s mysteries!

Posted by
4149 posts

There's a German TV series about Brunetti, filmed in Venice, with about 18 episodes that I know of. It's incongruous to hear all the Italians speaking German but the stories are excellent and the Venice settings will thrill anyone who loves that city. I just finished reading "The Golden Egg," one of the best I think. Brunetti is a dedicated, very skilled detective inspector (comisario) who has to work around an incompetent boss. Crime and investigation scenes are interspersed with family scenes that illuminate the characters. In all those I've read so far, Brunetti's investigation uncovers the truth, or as much of it as can be known, but very seldom produces the real justice he and we hope for. It helps to have a map of Venice on hand when reading these books, and Donna Leon has compiled a series of Venice walks to and among Brunetti locations.

Thanks to Monty for bringing Leon's and Furst's work (another thread) to the attention of more of us reader-travellers.

Posted by
1084 posts

If you love Donna Leon's Brunetti as I do, I recommend "Brunetti's Venice" by Toni Sepeda. It has many walks in familiar neighborhoods with commentary from the book. When I was in Venice with my daughter we took several of the walks and I was having such a good time telling her about the Brunetti family. At one point she said, "Mom, you do know he isn't real, right." But shortly thereafter she ran into the florist where he always buys Paola flowers and came out with a bouquet saying, "The Commisario suggested I get you these."

Posted by
145 posts

Laurie Beth,
Your post had me laughing out loud. Maybe your daughter and my son should get together for coffee?
Monty

Posted by
6001 posts

I agree and recommend them whenever I can. I've read them all and eagerly await each new one. I also borrowed the DVDs of the German made series and watched them all twice. They are very well acted, follow the stories closely, and are beautifully filmed in Venice which brings the various places in the book to life.

Posted by
1084 posts

Monty, she had a similar reaction when we visited Prince Edward Island and I had to see and experience all the Anne of Green Gables sites. She tries very hard to understand her mother's love of the characters in her favorite books.

Posted by
13 posts

About Anne of Green Gables. Netflix has a really fun series about Anne (starting at the beginning when she first arrives). It's called Anne with an E. Whole cast is great and story quite well done.
As to Donna Leon, I started her "My Venice," which is personal reflections of the city (and more). As I read I thought "She really hates tourists" and so I quit reading. Brunetti? Ah, that's another matter. Love him.

Posted by
16563 posts

I once saw an interview with Donna Leon on the MHz TV network. It has been her decision not to sell rights to her books for English-language movies or TV shows, though there are German-language feature-length programs available with English subtitles. I got the impression it was something of a privacy issue for her, so I can well imagine she is not fond of what has happened to Venice during the time (20 years? 30?) she has lived there.

Posted by
145 posts

RE: "As to Donna Leon, I started her "My Venice," which is personal reflections of the city (and more). As I read I thought "She really hates tourists" and so I quit reading."

I think if I'd lived in Venice all my life, I'd hate tourists too. Imagine living some place where walking to the grocery store is always like getting to the bathroom at a concert and where your favorite little restaurant has been replaced by one more souvenir shop. I've been to Venice 4 or 5 times over the past 30 years, and my favorite visit was the first one, in 1984. I love Venice, but may not go back, sad to say. Luckily, I still have Leon's books so I can travel there virtually.