The trick of this book is that everything is predictable, and yet nothing is stale...The Girl from Venice sails on its characters' vitality: Cenzo's decency, Giulia's canny verve, Giorgio's brash ignorance ... The Girl from Venice should appeal broadly to fans of World War II fiction, but it will also serve as a tonic to those who are weary of terribly complex plots requiring flow charts and genealogies. Writers are often exhorted to write the book they want to read, and it seems Martin Cruz Smith has done just that, to everyone's benefit.
Smith conjures the time and place with a generous dose of what the novelist Evan Connell called 'luminous details' ... Some of the novel’s most piquant scenes center on the behavior of Mussolini and his hangers-on as their world collapses. Pretense, denial, wishful thinking — these are among the stages in the downfall of a duce. Smith tantalizes us with brief glimpses of Mussolini himself ... At times, though, Smith seems to let up on the pedal when he should be pressing down ... may not be the most heart-pounding thriller of the year, but its vivid treatments of a timeless trade and certain little-known aspects of World War II make it well worth your time.
The Girl From Venice is a classy, lightweight affair, agile in its handling of action, smooth in its writing, thoroughly professional. For a long time I couldn’t decide whether it was a passable novel or a very, very bad one. I think, alas, that it’s the latter. The problem is its bone-deep complacency. It’s a book that has completely internalized the lessons of popular war fiction ... every gesture of midcentury Romanticism in The Girl From Venice is a received one, repackaged and presented as the most profound wisdom...It feels cheap.
The Girl from Venice — while undeniably thrilling — is, at heart, a tender love story ... The characters in The Girl from Venice are less nuanced than those in the best of Smith’s work. But the book is still strong — a gripping evocation of a beautiful nation and of two people, trapped in the lunacy of war and the bravery it can inspire.