Book Review: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

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.

I really tried to like this book, I wanted to like this book as it has been on my to read pile for a long time but it was one I thought sounded really good. Sadly I just could not get into this one and while I read the whole thing it really was not one I probably should have finished.

The core things that I look for in a good historical fiction were there. The history was solid and I liked the time period as well as the location. You can not get much better then a story in Florence during the Renaissance after all. I love hearing about all the art of the time, after all some of the finest art came out of that time. However there was just something about this one that I could not get myself to like. I suspect it was the general writing style as it just did not connect well with me. There is also the fact that after the initial introduction (which I enjoyed) most of the book becomes rather predictable.

While I can look past mistakes in form and technical aspect of things if the story grips me because this one didn’t I tended to find the mistakes in this one easier and it bothered me. I know others have enjoyed the book and I would love for them to perhaps tell me the key to what I am missing here although perhaps I am not missing anything at all, I just did not care for it much. If you like predictable plot, and a lot of art talk this may be a read for you, otherwise I wouldn’t read it.

My Gemstone Rating:


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