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No Magic Eden

Shirley Guiton
Date Published
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First published in 1972, Shirley Guiton’s account of life on the Venetian island of Torcello begins with her purchase of a dilapidated property and vineyard there, and goes on to describe the many difficulties she encountered in the course of renovating her new home and making the overgrown vineyard productive again. But, with her deepening understanding and experience of the island, the book comes to encompass the whole life of the people who live there, and includes a dramatic account of the disastrous Great Flood which occurred in 1966.

This by-now familiar form of narrative was scarcely with precedent when first published. As Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson says, ‘This was years before A Year in Provence or Driving Over Lemons reminded readers that they, too, could forsake the grey skies of northern Europe and find the sun – and a collection of locals who would make excellent copy for the books they might write. A publishing industry would blossom … Shirley was, in a sense, there first.’

‘She has even achieved what Mary McCarthy assured all and sundry was impossible – to say something about Venice which previous visitors had not said before … These pages are touched with Venetian serenity and illuminated by the eccentric lights of the lagoon.’ Michael Foot (Evening Standard)

‘The most vivid description I’ve ever read of that fearful 4th of November when Venice was flooded.’ John Julius Norwich (BBC Now Read On)


Shirley Guiton was born in Rome, and educated in England, South Africa and France. She travelled extensively in Europe, Latin America and Africa. In 1963 she bought a property on the Venetian island of Torcello and her experiences there formed the basis of two influential books about life in the Venetian Lagoon, No Magic Eden and A World by Itself.

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