The Birth of Venus
is all the more fascinating a historical novel for the author's inability to make up her mind what it is about. Is it a novel about the limited choices available to a woman with talent in Renaissance Florence--marriage or the convent? Or is it a novel about the choices you make to survive in a totalitarian society? As Savonarola takes Florence closer and closer to being an ascetic theocracy, Alessandra, her gay brother and his lover whom she has married for mutual protection find themselves in more and more peril. It could also be a detective story--Allesandra is in love with a painter whose religious mania and fascination with the body makes him a plausible suspect for a series of killings and dismemberments. Some historical novels wear their research too heavily--Dunant's is light, fluent and pacy, but her fascination with the possibilities revealed by research leaves her failing to make choices.
The Birth of Venus is a highly intelligent novel kept from incoherence mostly by the intensely imagined Alessandra, through whose eyes we see the tragic end of a key moment in human culture and whose lively sensibility constantly sparks ideas about art and her time. --Roz Kaveney
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Birth of Venus is a highly intelligent novel... the intensely imagined Alessandra, through whose eyes we see the tragic end of a key moment in human culture and whose lively sensibility constantly sparks ideas about art and her time. (Roz Kaveney, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW
Dunant throws out ideas about sex, art and the divine with Renaissance-style sprezzatura (The INDEPENDENT
Dunant is in her historical element in Renaissance Florence. ... No one should visit Tuscany this summer without this book. It is richly textured and driven by a thrillerish fever. (Rachel Holmes, The TIMES
It's to Dunant's credit that the vast quantities of historical information in this book are deployed so naturally and lightly. ... On the simplest level, this is an erotic and gripping thriller, but its intellectual excitement also comes from the way Dun (- Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday 'A beautiful serpent of a book, seductive dangerous and full of wise guile. Dunant's snaky tale of art, sex and Florentine hysteria, consumes utterly - but the experience is all pleasure.'