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The Birth of Venus: A Novel by Sarah Dunant
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The Birth of Venus: A Novel (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Sarah Dunant

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5,5711511,173 (3.67)1 / 192
Member:gooutsideandplay
Title:The Birth of Venus: A Novel
Authors:Sarah Dunant
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2004), Paperback, 448 pages
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The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (2003)

Recently added byprivate library, wolle1km, willowtree1990, rena75, thebookbabe, LondonLori, RachelS_89
  1. 00
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English (148)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
This was a book I wanted to be really good, and in many ways it was, but I found it dragging along at times. Sarah Dunant does a great job of embedding rich historical events and information into the storyline, but at times the description overshadowed the plot and one hundred pages would go by without much seemingly happening. Aside from the lulls here and there, the story was interesting with a strong female protagonist figuring out her place in the world during this time period. ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Jun 2, 2018 |
As a 60 year old man who mainly enjoys thrillers this would not normally appear to be my sort of book.
However i found it riveting absolute quality, a very entertaining read from start to finish, it brought history to life it was so atmospheric, authentic with lots of colour and detail, and a real sense and feel of time and place.
Highly recommended. ( )
  Gudasnu | May 28, 2018 |
I enjoyed immersing myself in the Savonarola years in Florence. An interesting time period, and I don't know many HF books specifically set in that time/place. I thought I knew in the beginning how the plot would play out, but I was happy to be wrong. The author threw in quite a few twists and turns. I initially rated this higher, but as it's marinated in my brain, I've adjusted down. There were a few too many things that kept bothering me.

SPOILER ALERT

One of those was how Alessandra reacted to her husbands marriage bargain. I can understand it should be a shock, but she waffles between seeming acceptance and awful bitterness. Later on when talking with her mother, her mother asks her if she had known would it have made any difference, and she replies that she hadn't thought about that before. I can't believe a woman in her situation would not have gravely considered the alternatives right off the bat! But maybe I'm too pragmatic. I could see some might expect her to express a mourning at the prospect of never having a deep and loving relationship with her husband, but this is very early 16th century Italy - women didn't have those sorts of expectations in a marriage at that time. I think they knew the realities well enough to know just how bad a marriage could really be. Your husband taking up with your brother - well, not good, but it could definitely be much worse.

There was also the way she waffled between disgust at her husbands actions with her brother and acceptance. At one point she experiences pangs of religious piety - wondering what sacrifices she must make to save her husband's and brother's souls - but then a page or two later she says or does something to make it seem like she's not really bothered by it. Alessandra mostly seems to object to the marriage arrangements mostly out of jealousy than anything else. That just doesn't quite ring true of the era for me, but I'm hardly a historical scholar, so I could be wrong about that.

I also cannot believe the part where Erila takes her out in the middle of the night she she is 8 months pregnant on a wild errand to hopefully meet the painter at the gates. She always discouraged Alessandra's relationship with him, and she's going to pick that moment to change her mind?

So, a few flaws, but overall very enjoyable. ( )
  catzkc | Mar 23, 2018 |
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain’s most innovative writers of literary suspense. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.
  JESGalway | Mar 21, 2018 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my mother, Estelle, and my daughters Zoe and Georgia.
First words
No one had seen her naked until her death. (Prologue)
Looking back now I see it more as an act of pride than kindness that my father brought the young painter back with him from the North that spring.
There is one thing I have forgotten. (Epilogue)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The birth of Venus -- translations include "De geboorte van Venus, liefde en dood in Florence; Veneros gimimas; Venuksen syntymä; Venus' fødsel, kærlighed og død i Firenze; Venus födelse; Amor y muerte en Florencia; Amor e morte em Florença; Das Zeichen der Venus; la nascita di Venere; Narodziny Wenus"
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Alessandra, who lives in Florence during the Renaissance period, finds passion in its local talented artists, poets, and writers of the era. Beyond her confining arranged marriage, she finds comfort in an affair with one of the artists.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812968972, Paperback)

Sarah Dunant's gorgeous and mesmerizing novel, Birth of Venus, draws readers into a turbulent 15th-century Florence, a time when the lavish city, steeped in years of Medici family luxury, is suddenly besieged by plague, threat of invasion, and the righteous wrath of a fundamentalist monk. Dunant masterfully blends fact and fiction, seamlessly interweaving Florentine history with the coming-of-age story of a spirited 14-year-old girl. As Florence struggles in Savonarola's grip, a serial killer stalks the streets, the French invaders creep closer, and young Alessandra Cecchi must surrender her "childish" dreams and navigate her way into womanhood. Readers are quickly seduced by the simplicity of her unconventional passions that are more artistic than domestic:

Dancing is one of the many things I should be good at that I am not. Unlike my sister. Plautilla can move across the floor like water and sing a stave of music like a song bird, while I, who can translate both Latin and Greek faster than she or my brothers can read it, have club feet on the dance floor and a voice like a crow. Though I swear if I were to paint the scale I could do it in a flash: shining gold leaf for the top notes falling through ochres and reds into hot purple and deepest blue.

Alessandra's story, though central, is only one part of this multi-faceted and complex historical novel. Dunant paints a fascinating array of women onto her dark canvas, each representing the various fates of early Renaissance women: Alessandra's lovely (if simple) sister Plautilla is interested only in marrying rich and presiding over a household; the brave Erila, Alessandra's North African servant (and willing accomplice) has such a frank understanding of the limitations of her sex that she often escapes them; and Signora Cecchi, Alessandra's beautiful but weary mother tries to encourage yet temper the passions of her wayward daughter.

A luminous and lush novel, The Birth of Venus, at its heart, is a mysterious and sensual story with razor-sharp teeth. Like Alessandra, Dunant has a painter's eye--her writing is rich and evocative, luxuriating in colors and textures of the city, the people, and the art of 15th-century Florence. Reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, but with sensual splashes of color and the occasional thrill of fear, Dunant's novel is both exciting and enchanting. --Daphne Durham

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

From its first arresting sentence, Sarah Dunant's magnificent novel embroils the reader in the coming-of-age story of Alessandra Cecchi, a fourteen-year-old girl with a strong will and a passion for painting. The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain's most innovative writers of literary suspense. Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family's Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter's abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra's parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola's reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra's married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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