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The Birth of Venus ~ Sarah Dunant

January 23, 2010



Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

Publisher: Random House

416 pages

ISBN: 9781400060733

I hate to say it but more often than not, I am underwhelmed by a book when I close it. I don’t, generally, fall in love with stories like I used to. I don’t know if that is a result of reading too much or living too much but regardless of reason, it’s true. I haven’t, for a while, found a book that I will recommend around to a large audience on different subjects depending on the person.

I’d like to say a big “thank you” to Sarah Dunant for breaking my losing streak. I just finished her Birth of Venus and it’s exquisite. Not only is the time period expertly researched but she manages to hit on those emotions that were felt so deeply then and still ring true, today. Themes of sexuality, both general and orientation, are explored in an unabashed, dare I say, naked way that leaves the reader feeling less exposed and more unburdened.

Her tale follows Florentine and budding artist, Alessandra, the youngest daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant, from girlhood to twilight, tripping along through history on her way. As Alessandra is coming of age, Florence is coming to grips with the Medici murders and the rise of crazed Dominican priest, Savonarola. It is a time between flourishing culture and the horrific Bonfire of the Vanities. Michelangelo and Da Vinci are young men, virtually unknown but it is already a culture of beauty and freedom that takes a strong dislike to the pulpit thumping of the man of the hour.

Through the trouble and strife, Alessandra encounters several great figures from history, laying claim to several as lovers and relatives in her wake. To say much more about the actual story woven would do a disservice to Dunant’s beautifully crafted masterpiece. The writing is flawless but not the most impressive part. The overall story itself is the stronger aspect. She is able to capture the tone of the time in a way that makes it parallel in many ways to our own. Closeted heads of state, teen angst, young love, tortured starving artists, corruption, censorship and abuse of power are all intertwined to create a tapestry that, with a few tweaks could take place several hundred years in the future.

As I mentioned before, this is a must read and my new recommendation. If you like art, love, history, sex, violence or any combination thereof, The Birth of Venus is well worth diving in to.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2010 8:43 pm

    I’m so glad you liked this! I’ve been waiting to see a review ever since I read Sacred Hearts and totally loved it. I will definitely look to get this on, thanks for the review!

  2. January 27, 2010 4:32 pm

    I love all of the above, so I’ve put it on my to read list 🙂

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