Friday, April 17, 2009

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant~★

Author: Sarah Dunant
Title: The Birth of Venus
Release Date: February 17th, 2004
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Jacket: "Alessandra Checci is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperout 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."

Taryn's Review: While doing my undergraduate work, I took a class that focused completely on Florence during the Renaissance and I was completely captivated by that class. Florence stole my imagination, and the stories (real stories, that is) that my professor would relate to us were so fascinating that I dreamed of visiting the city one day. The art! The history! The politics!

Sarah Dunant's book excited me because of my respect and interest in Florence, but that quickly faded as I got deeper into the book. I'm not sure I would even call this book historical fiction; I think a better description for the book would be 'historical smut.'

Alessandra was not a character with whom you could identify. Her relationship with the painter was odd, especially at the end of the book when I had to roll my eyes. Alessandra's was so smart in most things, but at the convenience of the author, she was painfully childish in other areas. And Alessandra's mother's whole life story coming out made me disgusted with the book. It was really unnecessary and flat out silly, in my opinion.

The end of this book was also rather ridiculous. Alessandra's reoccurring dream came true, yet she has so little respect for her new role that it seemed she made a mockery of her setting more than anything. But as long as she selfishly got to paint, her world was justified.

There are great, entertaining, and beautiful stories of Florence. Don't let this book turn you away from them. And if you do get a chance, check out the real stories from Florence. The art is mesmerizing, the history is almost unbelievable, and the stories of real life people will leave you breathless.This book will leave you with a terrible taste in your mouth. Avoid at all costs. 

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