Atlantic Monthly Press, 240 pages, $26 (release date 12/3/13)
The true voice of Donna Leon, not the one given to her popular character, Commissario Guido Brunetti, is funny and acerbic. She is passionate about the beauty and (eventual) neighborliness of Venice, although some of her essays bemoan the effect of tourism and lack of recycling, for instance. But Venice only headlines a segment of her essays. She has been saving up a lot of observations, it seems.
By turns sociologist (how she would hate that description!), anthropologist, historian, protester, teacher, and critic, her essays range widely. Pick a topic, any topic. How about "Moles" or "It's a Dick Thing" or dinner with Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)? Although many of the essays are wittily amusing or laugh-out-loud funny, Leon also evinces a serious kindness and intolerance (i.e., rage) for many subjects. And, finally, to answer the question she probably has had to answer more frequently than any other, she tells us how she writes her novels in a series of essays under the heading, "On Books."
"My Venice" will put you in the company of a woman who is articulate, intelligent, passionate, and worth listening to.
P.S. Did you know she is an American, albeit one who will never again live in the U.S.? She talks about her family and being an American, too.