Wandering through Lifeby Donna Leon
The internationally bestselling author of the Guido Brunetti mysteries tells her own adventurous life story as she enters her eighties
In a series of vignettes full of affection, irony, and good humor, Donna Leon narrates a remarkable life she feels has rather more happened to her than been planned.
Following a childhood in the company of her New Jersey family, with frequent visits to her grandfather’s farm and its beloved animals, and summers spent selling homegrown tomatoes by the roadside, Leon got her first taste of the classical music and opera that would enrich her life. She also developed a yen for adventure. In 1976, she made the spontaneous decision to teach English in Iran, before finding herself swept up in the early days of the 1979 Revolution. After teaching stints in China and Saudi Arabia, she finally landed in Venice. Leon vividly animates her decades-long love affair with Italy, from her first magical dinner when serving as a chaperone to a friend, to the hunt for the perfect cappuccino, to the warfare tactics of grandmothers doing their grocery shopping at the Rialto Market.
Some things remain constant throughout the decades: her adoration of opera, especially Handel’s vocal music, and her advocacy for the environment, embodied in her passion for bees—which informs the surprising crux of the Brunetti mystery Earthly Remains. Even as mass tourism takes its toll on the patience of residents, Leon’s passion for Venice remains unchanged: its outrageous beauty and magic still captivate her.
Having recently celebrated her eightieth birthday, Leon poignantly confronts the dual challenges and pleasures of aging. Complete with a brief letter dissuading those hoping to meet Guido Brunetti at the Questura, and always suffused with music, food, and her sharp sense of humor, Wandering through Life offers Donna Leon at her most personal.
Named a Most Anticipated Book by The Millions
“[Leon’s] memoir invites readers into her world of adventures, and she’s certainly had plenty . . . She vividly and engaging describes her love of crime, Venice, and opera, her dream of finding the perfect cappuccino (more difficult than one might imagine), and the games she created with friends throughout the world. Leon’s wit and life well-lived will draw in varied audiences, who can live vicariously through her. Fans of her series will certainly enjoy this memoir and the brief letter she includes to dissuade them from trying to find Guido Brunetti at the Questura.”—Library Journal
“Charming . . . Delightfully approachable.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Although celebrated crime writer Leon describes herself as ‘feckless and unthinking by nature,’ she is anything but in the pages of her sprightly memoir, where she focuses the same keen eye for detail and backstory that infuses her beloved, long-running Venetian mystery series featuring Guido Brunetti . . . Leon is coy and discerning in the anecdotes she selects to chronicle her 80 years on Earth, whether lamenting Venice’s environmental degradation or reveling in the works of Handel. Though fans will bask in these candid glimpses, one need not be a devoted Brunetti aficionado to appreciate Leon’s delightfully spirited account of a life well lived.”—Booklist
“A remarkable life story by a remarkable woman, Wandering through Life is an impressively written memoir laced with keen observation and humor. An inherently fascinating and memorable read from start to finish.”—Midwest Book Review
“This endlessly enjoyable series, with its deep thoughts about justice and vengeance and charming classical allusions, can’t help making you smile.”—Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
“[Leon] has never become perfunctory, never failed to give us vivid portraits of people and of Venice, never lost her fine, disillusioned indignation.”—Ursula K. Le Guin, New York Times
“You become so wrapped up in these compelling characters . . . Each one is better than the last.”—Louise Erdrich, PBS NewsHour
“Few detective writers create so vivid, inclusive, and convincing a narrative as Donna Leon . . . One of the most exquisite and subtle detective series ever.”—Washington Post
“The sophisticated but still moral Brunetti, with his love of food and his loving family, proves a worthy custodian of timeless values and verities.”—Wall Street Journal
“[Leon] uses the relatively small and crime-free canvas of Venice for rips about Italian life, sexual styles and—best of all—the kind of ingrown business and political corruption that seems to lurk just below the surface.”—Chicago Tribune
“Hers is an unusually potent cocktail of atmosphere and event.”—New Yorker
“For those who know Venice, or want to, Brunetti is a well-versed escort to the nooks, crannies, moods, and idiosyncrasies of what residents call La Serenissima, the Serene One . . . Richly atmospheric, [Leon] introduces you to the Venice insiders know.”—USA Today
“Donna Leon is the undisputed crime fiction queen . . . Leon’s ability to capture the social scene and internal politics [of Venice] is first-rate.”—Baltimore Sun
“Terrific at providing, through its weary but engaging protagonist, a strong sense of the moral quandaries inherent in Italian society and culture.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Brunetti is one of the most attractive policemen in crime fiction today.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“As always, Brunetti is highly attuned to (and sympathetic toward) the failings of the humans around him.”—Seattle Times
“Leon’s writing trembles with true feeling.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Leon started out with offhand, elegant excellence, and has simply kept it up.”—Guardian
“Compassionate yet incorruptible, Brunetti knows that true justice doesn’t always end in an arrest or a trial.”—Publishers Weekly
“[Brunetti] is a superb police detective—calm, deliberate, and insightful as he investigates with a reflective thoroughness.”—Library Journal
“The appeal of Guido Brunetti, the hero of Donna Leon’s long-running Venetian crime series, comes not from his shrewdness, though he is plenty shrewd, nor from his quick wit. It comes, instead, from his role as an Everyman . . . [his life is] not so different from our own days at the office or nights around the dinner table. Crime fiction for those willing to grapple with, rather than escape, the uncertainties of daily life.”—Booklist
“It’s difficult to describe the work of Donna Leon other than in superlatives . . . An annual blessing, a fine series—one of the finest (see what I mean) in the mystery (or any) genre . . . There are few reading joys that equal cracking the binding of a new Leon novel . . . If you have not experienced this world, so exotic and yet so familiar, you can pick up literally any volume in the series and begin a comfortable entry into Brunetti’s Venice.”—BookReporter
“One of the most popular crime series worldwide . . . While the Brunetti books, with their abundance of local color and gastronomic treats, appeal to the fans of the traditional mystery, Leon has something darker and deeper in mind.”—Life Sentence
“No author has delved into Venetian society quite like Leon, whose insider’s view shows how crime seeps throughout the city, touching all strata of society.”—Mystery Scene
In conversation with Barbara Peters