The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

The Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantThe novel is set in Florence – city of art and beauty, and follows the family of a wealthy cloth merchant. Alessandra Cecchi a fifteenth century tomboy, longs to draw and is attracted toward the fervent young artist hired to paint the family chapel. Although she inwardly rebels, Alessandra is soon married to a much older man who needs a wife to disguise his sexual proclivities. Betrayed and disappointed, she turns to her artist. Complicating their dangerous tryst is the invasion by France, an outbreak of smallpox and the rise of religious totalitarianism in Florence under the crazed monk Savonarola.

What the Armchair Critics Thought:
The book was quite well received although it was noted that after the shocking prologue, the book fell a little flat until Alessandra was married. We had a discussion of convents as the refuge of educated, single women at the time. It was noted that this book fits within the new genre of ‘art lit’ . These are books like “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “the Tree Lover” which are extremely visual, and include descriptions of technique, glowing colours and painterly images. It was very interesting to identify historical figures while reading the novel and the book was obviously well researched. Recommended.

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