Although the ending fell flat with me, by and large I enjoyed this tale of art and politics in Renaissance Italy. Most especially, I appreciated the way Dunant weaved in the treatment of women during this time. No doubt the heroine was a smart, classy woman, but I loved that her slave was the one outwitting everyone. Not a fast read, but full of good, researched, historical information about the time.
What an awesome book...starting with the death of a nun and the mysteries surrounding her, the story grabbed me from the beginning. The book is a coming of age story of Alessandra Cecchi and her life growing up during the Italian Renaissance. I felt connected to Alessandra and wanted her to succeed and find herself...this is an interesting read with lots of twists in the plot. I highly recommend it.
If you ever read The Agony and The Ecstasy the Michaelangelo biography you would enjoy this book. They would actually be good to read one after the other. Its the Florence of Art and the Church and is very enjoyable. This is a book that you could reread and enjoy
Dunant does a gorgeous job of describing Renaissance Florence. The young heroine, Alessandra, is overwhelmed with curiosity and a passion for painting. Thrown in the middle of a town ruled by a religious tyrant, stuck in a marriage of convenience, Alessandra must try to keep herself a lady instead of filling her passions. Beautiful writing, incredible descriptions. This book will stick with you.
Fascinating look at 15th century (Renaissance)Italy at the time of the death of Lorenzo de Medici and the 4-year reign of the fire-and-brimstone- preacher, Savonarola. Interesting characters --- especially, Alessandra the narrator and protagonist, her mother, and Erila family slave, nurse and chaperone to Alessandra. Two poignant male characters, Alessandra's antagonistic brother Tomaso, and Cristoforo... No more said. Read the book. It's a fast read and will peak your curiosity about 15th century Italy, the Renaissance and its art and artists.
Dama reviewed The Birth of Venus (Audio CD) (Abridged) on
Helpful Score: 3
I enjoyed this book. It had good historical background. It made me think of Jane Austen's books, the focus on the disadvantages of being a woman in those times. I wish it had more detailed encounters between Alessandra and the painter. It just seemed there was a lacking in there secret longing for each other. It could be more convincing. But, overall it was a good read.
Love this book! If you have been to Florence, are dying to go, love or hate the Medici family and know (or want to know) anything about the Renaissance this is a must read. It's great for the summer. Playful and serious in the same breath.
This book was a bit better than I thought it might be. Enjoyable, light read, but not something that stays with you once it's done.
I recommend it for those lazy summer days when you want an easy, entertaining read that does not challenge.
givebooksgirl reviewed The Birth of Venus (Audio CD) (Abridged) on
Helpful Score: 2
The intriguing secrets woven throughout The Birth of Venus, kept me happily holed up for two days I didnt answer the phone or the door or even cook a single meal. I was deliciously devouring the words in Dunants historical fiction novel set in one of the most amazing cities and time period Renaissance Florence. The passion, innocence and desires of Alessandra Cecchi, a character we see beginning in her teenage youth and follow into womanhood, lead her to consequences and choices I could never have predicted. What she wants, what she gets and what she ends up with leave me with a broad range of emotions - I am tattered, disillusioned, satisfied and have a sense of longing, delight and forlornness all at the same time. This books has it all love, betrayal, politics, religion, war, art, relationships and scandal.
I loved the book all the way up to the end, but wished for a more fulfilling ending for the heroine. I did enjoy reading about Florence at the time, and the life of the heroine, but I was left wanting more for her than she eventually became.
Despite a few minor infelicities, the book is both a coherent evocation of 15th-century Florence and a compelling account of the passions that ruled life then as now. It includes, among much else, the most vivid description of childbirth ever read by this childless male.
Megann S. reviewed The Birth of Venus (Audio CD) (Abridged) on
Helpful Score: 1
I read this book in one day it was so good. Beautiful description of a young woman growing up amid the decadence of the late 1400 to early 1500 Italy. I have been thinking about the story for days after reading it.
A lot of interesting elements at play in this book, but the story as a whole did not come together for me. It took a few days to get hooked, so it was a slow start. The mysterious plot twists and gruesome history of Florence carried my interest throughout. It felt like a Jack-the-Ripper novel set in Italy, but neither the plot nor its conclusion is a full-fledged murder-mystery. Plus, the main characters were too mysterious. I did not get to know them enough to care. The narrator, her mother, and her lover were interesting but something about them felt like outlines. They were characters never completed especially when compared to the detailed backdrop of Italian history.
I loved this book. I'd never read anything by Dunant, but had heard of The Red Tent; thought I'd read an earlier work first. I felt completely immersed in Florentine culture. Interesting characters, gripping first chapter that keeps you turning pages, colorful - though you're only reading black and white pages, I was left with this vision of color - probably because the father is a dyer? - Overall I really enjoyed reading this historical novel. Lot's of fun, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Dunant.
I just read this book for book club. It was a good read although slow at times. I did really love Alessandra and her slave, Erila as well. Also found the 2 men in her life, her husband and the painter very sympathetic. Despite their sins, faults and quirks, they were likable characters. I agree with the reviewer who said it was interesting to get a view of women's roles from that time period. One reviewer wrote that she put the book down because it was set in a convent. That was only at the very beginning and the last few chapters. The bulk of the book does not take place in a convent. The story takes place during the Renaissance, a time I am not very familiar with. I think if I was better versed in the art and politics of the era, I might have had a greater appreciation of the story although it is still an enjoyable read even if you are not. I will say that I am very glad that I did not live in those days but it is fun to get a peek at them and experience them vicariously. Guess that's why I love to read!
A great book. The author transports you in time to Florence during the time of the Medici's to tell us the story of a young passionate woman. Her descriptive way of writing makes you "live" the story as if you and the main character were one. I enjoyed this book so much I went thru its 394 pages in 2 days.
Fascinating telling of a girl caught up in Renaissance religious politics. She wants to paint, but being an artist isn't considered suitable for a woman. The girl is deemed too clever for her own good. Story starts at the end and winds back to her childhood to explain how society impacted her life, her family, and the consequences of the religious fervour all around her.
This was for our book discussion group - definately a book that has a lot of depth to it. I wish I knew more about the Renaissance while reading it, but I was still able to enjoy the book a great deal. It was well-written historical fiction and drew me into the characters and time period.
I think this was an OK book because the premise of the book, the descriptions of Florence and the politics of the Catholic church at the time were very interesting. Unfortunately, the book dragged in many places and I found myself skimming the pages until I got to the next event. Im not one to think that stories should always have a happy ending but this book seemed to be over the top depressing. There was always the possibility of something happy in the distance, but the story line never got there.
Very good historical background, fascinating details on Renaissance Italy. Some of the dialogue is a little too modern and motivations aren't always clear, but the story will keep you involved to the end.
This story sucks you in right from the first pages, which begin with the strange death of an aging nun with a serpent tattooed on her body and segue into the testimony of sister Lucrezia; an explanation of the nun which starts from the beginning, when she was a young Florentine girl who loved art. Lots of historical tidbits in this one, and it's a fascinating read. You think "Why is she dying? Why does a 16th-century nun have a snake tattoo?" and you can't stop reading on to find out. Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction or just a good, entertaining story.
What a fabulous story about life in Florence, Italy in the late 1400s. Told through the eyes of a young girl. The wonderful history of a city, its fabulous art, religion and the politics for those times. A very good read. Well written.
Once I started reading this, I could hardly put it down -- though I had to in order to get work done! It is a amazing story of art, religion and love told in a time of great achievements and great turmoil. The heroine -- Alessandra Cecchi -- is a complex and courageous woman born centuries ahead of her time who, nonetheless, forges a life and something of a career while also finding love in ways that defy her times. Dunant's exquisite writing let me get under Alessandra's skin and feel her ambitions, desires, frustrations and fears while also seeing Florence in its heyday and in some of its direst hours. I have just one regret: I wish the book had never ended.
Sarah Dunant is an above-average writer, and most of this story, set against the backdrop of the de Medici's Florence, was nicely crafted, if not terribly original. But while the beginning was tantalizing, the book promised more than it actually provided, and came to an end that was both predictable and unbelievable.
Beautifully written! Kept me interested throughout! I am a big fan of historic type of novels, and art and I was not disappointed in the writing, as it is descriptive enough that you can visualize it all.
This one is a story told from the viewpoint of a Renaissance artist who happens to be a woman and who therefore lacks opportunities to develop her talent. It is well-written and very interesting from a historical perspective. I enjoyed it.
Dunant writes wonderful historicaly inspired novels and this one is another wonderful example. Set in Renaissance Florence, this book weaves a wonderful tale while giving the reader a ot of historical information. It is an exciting tale woven with seduction and danger.
i'm still not sure how i feel about this book...the writing is wonderful and it really takes you into the time and what was going on during the end of the 15th century in florence. i just can't decide how i feel about how all the relationships ended. it was a kind of "happy" ending i guess, but it was just very strange. i liked it but i'm not sure it's one i will ever read again or truly recommend.
I'm a big fan of historical literature, so I really wanted to like this book. The historical details are good, but the story just didn't deliver. Allessandra, the protagonist is just not likable and doesn't seem real at all. Read this one just for the details on Rennaissance life. That's all that kept me going until the end.
This is an excellent book. It was my first audio book so it took some getting used to but I found myself looking for excuses to drive and sitting in my car before and after my drive so that I could listen to more of it!
I am an avid reader of historical fiction so I am aware that it is difficult to keep the balance between historical accuracy and good storytelling. This novel hits the nail right on the head. The language is beautiful and the story is lovely. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in Italian Renaissance art, Renaissance history or historical fiction in general. It's a gem!
This book has it all: Itallian history, art history, religious history, a great story line, and intrigue. A naive academic girl gets caught up in history and the plans that others have for her. In the end she becomes her own woman. Compelling.
This was my second attempt with a Sarah Dunant book. As I started to read the book, I realized once again we were back in a convent. I guess the author is fascinated by the nunnery scene in the 1500's. I am not. I could not get into the book and realize this author is just not for me.
A colleague gave me this book saying that I was going to love it and she was right. Front the very first pages it was obvious that this was not your ordinary historical fiction, it really couldn't be with a nun having a tattoo of a serpent on her torso, and I looked forward to finding out how that came about.
Freedom, independent thought and pursuit of learning are prominent themes in this novel and it was interesting to see them explored in the context of Renaissance Florence. I'd always assumed that with Florence being the cradle of art and learning of that time it was a relatively progressive society where curiosity and education were encouraged for anybody who had the ability to pursue it, but this novel paints a picture of a society where women were not encouraged to pursue much beyond getting married and birthing children, and a passion for learning was considered a shameful shortcoming, one to be kept a secret, a sin even. That was very surprising to me, considering how different was the world of Milan in the same period as portrayed in Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex, with Isabella d'Este openly patronizing artists and collecting art. I could hardly believe both books were set in the same era and in what we know now as the same country.
The story was full of unexpected plot twists, from the problems with Alessandra's marriage to her relationship with the painter, whose name we never find out. They kept the story moving but for me they weren't the most interesting part. Instead I particularly enjoyed Alessandra's passion for art and literature, her willingness to take risks to pursue painting, and the effect that practicing her art has on her. I particularly enjoyed the section where she painted her way through the darkest depression saying that that was how she healed herself. Moreover, it was really fascinating to see such literary erudition in a person so young. I am twice Alessandra's age and I haven't read the Divine Comedy even once, let alone Aristotle or Socrates. Having read a number of novels set in centuries past I'm inclined to believe that this was not unusual for nobility of that time and every time I read about characters such as Alessandra I can't help but be impressed.
What I had trouble with was character development. Majority of secondary characters
were one-dimensional and sometimes even the key traits of main characters weren't all that prominent until they were stated. For example, there is much talk about Alessandra wanting to be free from the constant supervision she had in her parents' house, but I never got that vibe from her until it was expressed for the first time. It actually took me by surprise, I thought she seemed quite content, her antagonistic relationship with her brothers notwithstanding. My favorite characters in this book were Alessandra's mother, her slave Erila, and her husband Cristoforo. They had histories, secrets, and there was an energy about them that made me want to learn more about them. They were also the ones who allowed the humanity of Alessandra's character to be revealed to a greater extent, improving the novel in the process.
The story unfolds against the backdrop of a religious zealot taking hold of Florence with his teachings and the effects this has on the city. This situation and how it changes Alessandra's life and prospects is an interesting commentary on what can happen in a society if a charismatic leader wins over increasingly greater crowds and how the social landscape can change as a result.
This is an intriguing story driven by characters with plenty of secrets and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a twist.
I've had several of Dunant's on my shelves for quite some time now, but this is the first I've actually found time to delve into. I loved the beginning of the novel: upon the death of a nun, her convent sisters discover a very detailed tattoo of a snake, with its tail beginning up across her shoulder & its body gradually winding across her chest & leading down to...well, you can probably guess -- where, instead of a snake's head, the head of a man resides. A very gripping and eye-opening beginning to a story.
From there, the story goes back in time to retrace the nun's history. The pace of the novel is a bit slower now, but still intriguing nonetheless. A few minor plot twists are thrown in along the way, and the reader is anxious to know how the main character of Alessandra evolves into the nun at the beginning of the story. I must admit I was doubtful as to the credibility of how Dunant was going to bring this full circle, but I was quite pleased by how she did end up doing so.
The Birth of Venus could have been a great story. It was slow in the beginning and I had a difficult time staying focused on it. Itdid, however, get considerably more interesting towards the end. In fact, I very much enjoyed the last 1/3 of the book. However, there was so much detail lacking, in this story , that I had a hard time envisioning the time period, Florence, the people, or anything other than the art. The art was very well described. Also, the passage of time was not well marked. It was difficult to know if it was weeks or years later in the story. Lastly, I know this is fiction, but there were certain details that she completely ignored. If you are not a big history buff and you just want an entertaining story this may not bother you. I gave this book 3 stars because I did enjoy it but it could have been so much better.
I am a history teacher and I loved this book. It takes a real period and place in history and creates a story around a fictional character (kinda like the "Titanic" movie). This book is beautifully written and I loved it. It is one of the store, Target's picks for "bookmarked".
I'd received mixed reviews on this book, but I could not put it down. A fascinating period in Florentine history and wonderfully plotted story. I couldn't wait to figure out how this nun had gotten her tattoo.
Depicts the turbulent times of the Florentine Renaissance- a time when art was praised for both it's godliness and it's humanity. A time of free-thinking pervaded the city until a monk named Savonrola takes the city by storm- condemning Florence as Dante's Inferno. Strict laws are put in place to keep the citizens "godly." No fine clothes, no jewelry, and, no art.
Alessandra Cecchi is a young girl who has the choice of the convent or marriage. Devoted to her art in secret- she longs to have a connection with the mysterious painter who comes to paint her father's chapel. However, fate leads her to a marriage of convenience. While not in love, the man she marries is kind and allows her to practice her art. If only she had know of the dark secrets men could cloister in the night.... she may have made another choice. Riveting and beautifully written, this book if for those women who belive there is more to them than family and marriage.
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
tale of art, love and betrayal in 15th-century Florence, the daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant seeks the freedom of marriage in order to paint, but finds that she may have bought her liberty at the cost of love and true fulfillment. Alessandra, 16, is tall, sharp-tongued and dauntingly clever. At first reluctant to agree to an arranged marriage, she changes her mind when she meets elegant 48-year-old Cristoforo, who is well-versed in art and literature. He promises to give her all the freedom she wants-and she finds out why on her wedding night. Her disappointment and frustration are soon overshadowed by the growing cloud of madness and violence hanging over Florence, nourished by the sermons of the fanatically pious Savonarola.
If you like wordy pretenses of literature, then you will like this book. If you however, enjoy to read books with a good plot and well developed characters- this will be one to add to your "If THEY can get publlished, maybe I can talk them into publishing the memoirs of my dog's crap..." list.
My best bet would be that anyone who liked the inane movie "Legends of The Falls" will really enjoy this book. They are similar in that both stories are stupid and you can't wait until more of the characters die.
The art of Florence during the Medici period and the profound influence of the Church during this time provide the building blocks of a sensitive, human story. The past comes alive as Alessandra learns to develop her artistic talents in spite of the restrictions of the times. Family structures and individual morals are shown in her strange marriage and her struggle to keep her sense of self.
Beautifully written with a luminous use of language that reflects the light of Florence and its influence on the world of art.
I just could not get into this book. I was hoping it was better than the dreadfully creepy SACRED HEARTS, but it was not. I realize now that I do not like Sarah Dunant's writing. Her Hannah Wolfe series was also very disappointing.
The story started out with a nun who died. Then it switched over to a young girl in Florence who wanted to paint. The heroine was very independent and strong, despite the few options that were laid out for her. However, I loved her slave more than the main character. The slave was extremely clever with her street smarts. She outwitted everyone. The ending of the novel was a bit anti-climatic for me, but it was still a good read for me.
Bookfanatic reviewed The Birth of Venus (Audio CD) (Abridged) on
I like historical fiction. There's something intriguing about one family passion, struggle, wealth, internal squabbles, and adventure in a vibrant old city of the past. That's why I got this book. It held my attention in the beginning. The book starts off very well then it lose something in the middle. The ending is a surprise and not really a surprise if you were paying attention at the very beginning of the story. I can't say I was satisfied by the ending although I'll say this is a well-written historical novel. It does a good job of evoking what life was like in Florence. I only wish the plot was paced and plotted better.
Once again, Sarah Dunant spins a masterful tale of life long ago, starting in Florence in the 1480's. We enter the life of Alessandra Cecchi, a 14 year old girl who is sadly, too developed for her time. She loves to learn, speaks multiple languages, has no talent for dancing, and above all, she loves art.
Alessandra has inherited her love of color from her father, a clothing merchant renowned for his vibrant cloths and she yearns for the secret of color. While most young women learn to sew and prepare to be mothers, Alessandra sketches scenes from the bible and other images she can conjure up in her mind. She yearns to explore the beautiful city she lives in, to feel what it must be like to be a man in a time of great change, both politically and culturally.
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If you like art, especially that of Italy during the Medici period it is fascinting. Florence was a period which also shows immorality in its society along with the heights to which it reached it in art.
This is the unabridged version on CD. It is approximately 14 hours.
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.
Alessandra Cecci 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 Florence palazzo. A child of the Renaissance with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the artist's abilities.
But Alessandra's parents have made plans for their daughter, and she is soon married off to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, the reign of the Medicis, with their love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, is being threatened by the hellfire preaching and increasing brutality of the fundamentalist monk Savonarola and his reactionary followers. As the city shudders with violence and change, Alessandra must find her own way - and finally explore the passions she's kept so long at bay.
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.