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The Birth Of Venus Paperback – 3 Jan 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844089126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844089123
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

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.') --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
Art, history, politics, sex, lust, and love are all combined in this truly engaging story set in the city of Florence in the 1490's. The Catholic Church is fighting for supremacy, as a world of fundamentalist Christian doctrine is bought to life. And Durant does a fine job of recreating this rich and provocative period in European history, as she deftly and powerfully brings to life the desires, fears and hopes of Alessandra Cecchi, the young protagonist of the story. Through a complex, yet common sense first person narrative Durant creates a world steeped in rich historical drama and tragedy, as the lies, hypocrisy, betrayals and family loyalties of the Cecchi family are laid bare.
The focus of this masterful first person narrative is the young, headstrong and willful Alessandra who, not quite fifteen becomes intoxicated with a young painter's abilities, when his father commissions him to paint the chapel walls of their Florentine palazzo. For Alessandra her teenage freedom is threatened when her parents arrange to marry her to a wealthy, much older man who is having a clandestine affair with another member of the family. The family struggles are played out against the backdrop of civil unrest between the followers of the fundamentalist monk Savonarola and those of the Medici family, with their love of comfort, sumptuousness, art and sculpture.
Part historical treatise and part love story, The Birth of Venus is packed with religious and visual symbolism, as Durant effortlessly describes a truly extraordinary period in history.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 9 May 2004
Format: Paperback
Sarah Dunant weaves a tapestry as rich and as the cloths of Alessandra Cecchi's merchant father's, in her book about late fifteenth century Florence. This is the uplifting story of the indomitable spirit of a talented and fiercely intelligent young woman, and how her spirit finds a way in a repressive religious and masculine world. It is reminiscent of "Girl with a Perl Earring" in its ability to evoke the texture, smells, sights and sounds of a city and a culture of five centuries ago. The story is riveting, the characters deep, multifaceted and engaging. This is a first class read. Sarah Dunant has created a beautiful, soaring spirit in Alessandra, a woman who will stay with you long after you've finished the book. Ms Dunant has also managed to create some of the most beautiful passages of physical intimacy I've read. Compelling, hauntingly beautiful, a must read!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Aug 2005
Format: Paperback
I am not into historical novels but as I was going to Florence on holiday and the subject matter involved the city I bought this book. What a book! It blew me away. As I read it I feel in love with the main character Alessandra. The spirit, vivacity, touching innocence of this woman makes you want to put your hand around her and take her away from Rennaisance Florence - though I very much doubt she would have allowed it.
Dunant has produced a masterpiece. The language is to be savoured as she draws you into centuries gone by with its sight and smells as if it was real. I cannot wait for her next book. Read and Recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Aphrodite on 29 Dec 2007
Format: Paperback
The Birth of Venus is a fantastic historical novel by the acclaimed author, Sarah Dunant. Dunant expertly paints a vivid and compelling picture of Renaissance Florence in a time of religious and political turbulence. In the midst of this turmoil, Alessandra Cecchi is experiencing her own turbulent transitional period into a beautiful young lady with very real feelings of love, passion and intoxicating attraction. From the moment I was introduced to her character I immediately empathised with her, understood her as a person and felt all her emotions from her innate awkwardness and shyness to the seductive, erotic pull that she feels for the forbidden painter. I took pleasure in watching her develop into a confident, independent lady as the novel unraveled. The novel is as full of twists and turns as the squalid streets of Renaissance Florence, and weaves together to form a fantastic, exciting and at times, poignant novel.
I would recommend this novel, and others by Sarah Dunant, to anyone with even a vague interest in historical fiction.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amycat on 24 Jan 2007
Format: Paperback
To begin with i thought the novel was a bit slow, however, i did manage to get into the novel, and enjoyed it thoroughly once i did. The writer manages to create great tension between the narrator and the young mysterious painter, initially i found some actions of the characters (i'm trying not to give anything away!) quite difficult to understand, but Dunant manages to justify each characters acts through the narrator, and you begin to understand things more as she matures.

Through Dunant's novel, you realise how magnificent the renaissance was, but also some of the catastrophes that took place. The descriptions of the art in the book are excellent, and it left me extremely interested in the work of michelangelo and other renaissance artists.

Overall, it is an excellent book and a pleasure to read.
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