BY THE GRAND CANAL is an atmosphere in search of a plot. For atmosphere it's hard to do better than Venice, and casting the story at the close of WWI hardly alters things for Venice-lovers, as few cities can have changed so little in a century. Simon Vance does his best with stork-like Brit Hugh Thurne; his impecunious Venetian friends, the Veniers, in their threadbare palazzo; the two attractive Venier children; Thurn's operatic mistress, Emanuela; and Violet, the widow of Hugh's best friend. But Vance's female voices are unconvincing, Fenice is alternately pronounced "Feneese" and" Fenee-tchay" (why?), and the pace is slow to the point of slack. Pretty thin gruel. B.G. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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