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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I fell in love; deeply, profoundly and irrevocably."
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...
Published on 21 Feb 2004

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Birth of Venus
Good historical read. Opened my eyes to women's lives during that period of Italian history. More of a bloody tale than I normally read but riveting just the same
Published 12 months ago by Seagull


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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I fell in love; deeply, profoundly and irrevocably.", 21 Feb 2004
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (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. The strength of the narrative is in the recreation of the sights, sounds and smells of the period: From the bloody details of Alessandra's pregnancy, to the gory descriptions of the plague, and from the explicit sex scenes of Alessandra's virginal wedding night, to the beautiful descriptions of the paintings of the time. The choices one makes in life and the conflicts between faith, and basic human need are at the center of this fine novel. We see this reflected in Alessandra, as she grows and matures and meets many dire challenges. This is a gorgeous novel and is highly recommended.
Michael
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous tale of renaissance Florence, 9 May 2004
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and Fascinating Alessandra, 27 Aug 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful novel, 20 Sep 2006
By 
R. Jugnarain "Miss J" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (Paperback)
This is one of the most sensual books I have ever read, and not just because of the romantic plot which comprises the book's core. Even when witnessing the turbulent and frequently horrific events in Renaissance Florence through the eyes of 15-year-old Alessandra, Sarah Dunant's prose is always seductive and captivating. I was breathless with anticipation every time I turned a page. The best book I've read in years.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, 18 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (Paperback)
I have just finished this book and every page took my breath away. You are left at the end of every chapter guessing what will happen next, and I was often surprised at the outcome. It is a whirlwind novel and all credit should go to the author. I fell in love with the main character Alessandra and together we explored Florence and it's people at first with naivity then with the utmost confidence. This is a must for everyone!!!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars review of the birth of venus, 24 Jan 2007
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, seductive novel, 29 Dec 2007
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a lovely book!, 9 Jun 2007
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (Paperback)
I was given this book as a present and was hooked from page one. Set in Florence during the Reinassance, it is a very believable picture of life back then, described in such vivid, well researched detail. The story itself is mysterious, gripping and moving. Definitely worth reading if you like historical fiction and even if you don't! A page-turner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really engrossing, magical book, 13 Mar 2008
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (Paperback)
A brilliantly crafted novel. Kept me in suspense until the end. Whetted my apetite for Renaissance art while keeping me intrigued by a juicy plot. The main character, Alessandra, was so easy to fall in love with and I could hardly bear to put it down. Definitely 10 out of 10 - 15th Century Florence just leapt off the page!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great historical fiction, 13 Dec 2004
This review is from: The Birth Of Venus (Paperback)
This book, set in 15th century Florence, is told through the eyes of the main character Alessandra, a 14 year old girl who has led a sheltered life and who longs to paint. She possesses a strong mind and tells the story with such grace and humility that even the most distasteful parts still read like fine poetry. Alessandra comes from a wealthy family and due to the turbulent times ends up married before she is even 15. She befriends a painter and boldly challenges him to review her work.
I especially loved the references to art and faith, and feel this is a story many will quickly jump in and sail along with. I found myself anxious to find out what would happen next, as the book is not only written with a beautiful voice but has the added interest of history, realism, and mystery. Quite simply, you want to find out what happens to this girl.
I would recommend this for a great long weekend. Turn off the phone and snuggle in for a great story.
From the author of The Difference Now.
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The Birth Of Venus
The Birth Of Venus by Sarah Dunant (Paperback - 3 Jan 2013)
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