Monday, 21 February 2011

The Birth of Venus

I really enjoyed Sarah Dunant’s Mapping the Edge (review here) and went on to read The Birth of Venus with great expectations. It didn’t disappoint although, for me, the thriller genre always has the edge.

This story evokes 15th century Florence wonderfully well, with the uncertainty and horror of life there appearing to be admirably researched. Alessandra, the central character, is a teenage girl growing up in the city. She is very bright and artistically talented and is born into a wealthy family but there are few opportunities for women in these times. Her merchant father brings a young painter of frescos into the family home and she becomes fascinated by him and his artistic ability. But who is he, and what is he doing during his nightime ‘walks’? 
Alessandra marries an older man, (a ‘friend’ of her hated brother), in haste to gain the freedom she desires, but, as Florence is taken over by Savonrola, the ‘Mad Monk’and becomes a city full of people to be feared she discovers family secrets and lies that have consequences for her for the rest of her life.

I learned a great deal reading this novel and would recommend it to any one who appreciates good writing, characters that remain in your head – Alessandra is wonderful – and historical interest.

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