In the immediate aftermath of World War I, Hugh Thurne, a British diplomat involved in the peace negotiations, decides to flee to his second home in Venice rather than return to his wife and the charade of his marriage in London. Although profoundly disturbed about the long-term prospects for peace, he has faith in the city's power to raise his spirits. Hugh eagerly looks forward to visits with his old friends Giacomo and Valentina Venier in their dilapidated palazzo on the Grand Canal; to dallying with a young opera singer, Emanuela; and to the arrival of Violet Mancroft, the widow of his best friend lost in the war. What he does not anticipate is the shadow lying over the Venier family's future. Nor has he reckoned with the vagaries of his own human heart. Evoking the beauty of Venice, By the Grand Canal is a novel about premonition for the future and the war it portends, about death and memory, and also about an unexpected love between two old friends.