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The Birth of Venus

by Sarah Dunant

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,8791581,321 (3.67)1 / 198
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)
Recently added byWalter_reads, private library, bookishbill, Tosta, MadaDursma, MrsLeach, Viamonte, marita_p, proofrawk
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    ddelmoni: Great historical fiction about Michaelangelo and the Italian Renissance.
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» See also 198 mentions

English (155)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (158)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
(8.5)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.

This was just the book I needed to immerse myself. I loved the depiction of life in Florence in the 15th century and of course I found my self searching the wonderful art works and fashions referred to in the story. This is another book that has sat on my shelf for way too long and a wonderful read. ( )
  HelenBaker | Apr 19, 2021 |
I enjoyed reading this book immensely and now I've finished it I miss the main characters a lot-always a good sign. When reflecting back perhaps some of the plot, particularly right at the end, was a little far fetched but I was so engrossed it really didn't matter at the time. I will search out some more of Sarah Dunant's books. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Nice descriptions of the work of artists in 1490 trying to paint religious scenes in chapels. Girl loves doing art, part of a rich enough family to allow her to do it. As a young girl gets interested in the painter hired by her family who paints her as the Virgin Mary. When religion gets political, her family has her get married to an older man. He is gay, in love with her brother who hates her, but he let's her continue painting. A one night stand with the painter causes a pregnancy, husband does not know since they did have sex. As their preacher gets more hateful of homosexual behaviors, everyone's life becomes in danger. Loved her negro attendant with her down to earth thinking that saved them in their against rules town exploring, her health, helped her in the convent with her daughter. Her Mom added an interesting twist. Ended weird. ( )
  kshydog | Dec 13, 2020 |
Enjoyed this book - set in Renaissance Italy - a period I have not read many novels about. ( )
  VictoriaJZ | Aug 30, 2020 |
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Set in Renaissance Florence fourteen year old Alessandra falls for an Artist but she is promised to a much older man. She turns to art for solace as she comes to terms with her often turbulent life. A powerful coming of age story of a young lady wise beyond her years.

The characters are well developed with attention to detail, vivid and true to the era. Overall I enjoyed The Birth of Venus and feel those who love historical stories with a female protagonist will enjoy it as well. ( )
  SheriAWilkinson | Jul 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
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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.)
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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)

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.

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