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The Birth of Venus

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  67,298 ratings  ·  2,576 reviews
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous 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 interrupt
Hardcover, 397 pages
Published February 17th 2004 by Random House (first published 2003)
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Cheresa At the end of chapter 22, Alessandra and Cristoforo are having a conversation about his connection to Lorenzo the magnificent. He mentions Lorenzo…moreAt the end of chapter 22, Alessandra and Cristoforo are having a conversation about his connection to Lorenzo the magnificent. He mentions Lorenzo having a painting by Botticelli ( titled The Birth of Venus) and describes how the character Venus is portrayed in the painting. I'm thinking the characteristics of Venus are similar to Alessandra and may mirror her life which could be why the story is titled The birth of Venus. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lesley Smith
After reading this for the second time I wish I could give it higher than five stars. I discovererd new things about this book that I hadn't caught before. Such a wonderful book and I can't wait to read it for the third time!

This is an absolutely amazing book. The author has done a lot of research and it shows in her writing. This is a historical fiction. The imagery is wonderful and you really get wrapped up in the lives of the Character. Now that I have been studying Mythology I would like to
Halfway through the book: I do NOT think this is a wonderful book. I am terribly disappointed. Description of Renaissence Florence is fine. I have no quibbles with that, but the plot is so foreseeable, so predictable. The characters seem as modern day caricatures. For me this is pure fluff. Am I learning anything new, to compensate for all my my other disappointments? No!

On completion: If you want to read a book about art during the Italian Renaissence read The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographi
A few points about this book:

If you choose to read it, skip the Prologue. It gives away the last quarter of the book. (I found this very frustrating.)

The middle of the book is fine. It's basic historical romance stuff with interesting, smart characters.

The end of this book sucks. The main character, and her best friend, make decisions which are both odd and unbelievable.

Perhaps you should skip the prologue, read the middle, then when you get to the last few chapters, instead of reading them, ski
For some reason, I always feel the need to apologize when giving a high rating to a book that is not marvelously written from a technical standpoint--I think I've been privy to too many technical writing conversations. While this book is not a classic of literary style, it was a very good read. Its strengths rest in its emotional honesty at difficult moments. Dunant has an eye for those small defining gestures that convey volumes.

As a historical novel, it also covers some interesting territory.
With an overpowering deluge of verbs and a merciless amount of description, only surpassed by Tolkien taking 60 pages to walk around a mountain, I found myself continually drifting off. The novel has a meticulous feel to it, with robotic research covered by a light skein of unbelieveable emotion and a pseudo-attempt at mystery that is all gunked up. Like many books published by large corporations its inherent shallowness and malleability would make a great movie.
Wow, I really enjoyed this book. I read it in a day. I didn't read it like I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix nor did I read it like I plan to read Book 6 on July 16, but I read it in a day it was that good. I'm just going to address my one major problem with the book before I go on to tell you exactly why I liked it so much.

Language. I don't know how they spoke in the 1490s, but some of the language seemed very current. Some of the slang used to describe various body parts and b
Jan 28, 2008 Rebecca rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: "people who want to hit themselves in the head with boards"- cousin Jared
Recommended to Rebecca by: Costco book table
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I have had this book sitting on my bedside cabinet shelf for quite some time,as I was so disappointed by Blood & Beauty that I didn't feel like starting this title. But this is the Dunant I love & admire. I think she is better with a smaller fictionalised historical rather than a "big canvas" one.

Dunant writes so beautifully & I was enthralled by Alessandra's story with it's complex familial & matrimonial relationships. I feel in a platonic way that (view spoiler)
A friend gave me this book as a birthday gift. Oddly, it was a book she'd never even read (and she's an even more avid reader than I am). She just indicated that she'd thought it looked like a good one, and as it was a "bestseller" she figured it must be. She wasn't wrong, however, for the first few chapters, I constantly wondered why on earth she'd pick out such a book (with such content) for me...

After convincing myself I was an adult and it was ok to continue (I still have alot of my mother'
Pauline Montagna
I sometimes wonder if it is safe for a novelist to attempt to portray cultures other than her own. Sarah Dunant is an English writer who now divides her time between London and Florence (half her luck!) I daresay she feels that, having studied Italian history and lived amongst Italians, she knows Italian culture. However, as an Italian woman myself, I know how Italians relate to the foreigners in their midst and they are not as easily understood as a British ‘Italophile’ might believe.

Ms Dunant
I read this title for a book club and from the description, I thought it would make for a very good discussion. Unfortunately, the story did not live up to the expectations created by the inside flap.

If you like historical fiction, it does have a fairly interesting depiction of Renaissance Florence going for it--and I did learn some things along the way, like I usually do with good historial fiction. However, without giving too much away, the ending and the character development greatly disappoi
Pauline Ross
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Dunant's gem of a book, "The Birth Of Venus," is a brilliant period piece written painted on the page with all the fire of oils then finished off with a glow emanating from the veneer that comes after being highly glazed. She masters the big four: Story— Imagery—Elegance—Intelligence, in such a "readable" way, I flew through it (or it, through me) and I finished it, cover to cover, in under two hours, whilst in a surreal haze. Okay. To be honest, the haze was probably from the real fever I ...more
This is a book that starts with an ending: the death of an elderly nun in a 15th century Italian convent. A mystery is sparked when it is discovered that the nun’s tumor appears to have been faked and she has an evocative tattoo entwining her torso where it has been hidden by her habit.

From there the story vaults to the beginning - to when this mysterious nun was a 14 year old Florentine named Alessandra. Alessandra is presented as the youngest daughter of a rich cloth merchant. She is clever,
May 15, 2008 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in historical fiction or art history
Recommended to Kelly by: Yuki
Ideas expressed/message/plot: Alessandra is an intelligent & talented young woman living in Florence during the Renaissance. She doesn't have too many options though - get married or join a convent. While she must to conform to the rules of society, she figures out a way to succumb to her own passion as well.

The book's prologue is truly one of the best openings to a story that I've ever read. After that, I found myself "slowed down," by the references to artists and artwork - sadly a testame
Clif Hostetler
I read this prior to my days, thus I didn't write my own review. I was reminded of it by the following review from the 2006 PageADay Book Lover's Calendar. I recall that the story takes place in Florence during the turbulent times of Savonarola who is on a campaign to root out all evil including homosexuals. Thus the woman in this story is married off to a man whose main motivation for getting married is to hide the fact that he's a homosexual. That's not the main part of the story, ...more
Tempo de Ler
Na bella Italia Renascentista, em Florença, a arte - inspiração de Deus - está por toda a parte; na música, nos edifícios, nas peças consumadas para os adornar e até mesmo nos diálogos. A beleza do corpo era um tema de conversa tão habitual e comum como a própria beleza da arte… Mas nem toda a arte do mundo será suficiente para salvar uma cidade quando a estrada que a conduz à redenção está atravancada de fanatismo, ignorância e intolerância religiosa.

Florença estava a virar-se contra si mesma,
Dawn McGowan
Dunant does a wonderful job blending historical events in with her fictional character, the blossoming young woman, Alessandra Cecchi. Alessandra is the daughter of a cloth merchant who endures, above all, corrupt religious leaders and an interesting marriage. Through Dunant's vivid descriptions of the time period , readers are transported to late 15th century Florence. The details given to the reader displayed Dunant's erudition and thorough knowledge of that time period. During the course of t ...more
Jun 12, 2007 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, people looking for a relaxing read
This book was a little bit chick-y, but I liked it anyway. It takes place in Renaissance Italy and it is fully aware that it cannot capture the beauty that it seeks to in any way, shape, or form. It is content merely to explore a few threads. Which bothered me on some level since I wanted more of the overwhelming, in your face, splashy sense of the era if I was going to read about it. But since I usually like quiet, intimate novels, it didn't bother me that much. It isn't especially deep, and th ...more
Rio (Lynne)
I made it 65 pages in, but I couldn't bring myself to finish. Another book I wanted to love! What a shame. Artist Domenico Ghirlandaio's was one of the great artists during the Italian Renaissance. The author weaves a story between Domenico and Alessandra Cecchi. Unfortunately, Alessandra's parents arrange a marriage for her to a much older man. Why did I lose interest when this story should have been so interesting? The author did that thing I hate. Pages and pages of unimportant details and de ...more
Sarah M
Apr 04, 2011 Sarah M rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Historical Fiction
3.5 Stars

I really enjoy historical fiction and have never read a book about Florence or this era. So I decided to give this ago. I mostly did enjoy this book and I liked the main character Alessendra. I felt for her in many parts of this book. I liked the story line, and the books plot moved in a good way.

What I didn't really enjoy about this book was everything about the art. Art really was a main topic in the book, and it did help with the story. At times I just got really bored reading all th
Sara Giacalone
I really enjoyed this book and the discussion of art, religion and philosophy - but I can understand why some readers would think it is a bit dry. It's a great historical novel centered in Florence in the late 15th century, when Savonarola was on his rampage against ostentation and sin(predating the later reformation by quite a bit). The novel was full of twists and surprises, and came to a satisfactory conclusion that felt real. It was a nice change from much of the "fluffier" historical fictio ...more
I'm finding it difficult to select a rating for this book. It begins with a bang (5 stars for interest, mystery, intrigue), slows to a disconnected simmer (2 stars) which cools to lukewarm (1 star). The story does pick up (2-3 stars) but then spirals into a disappointing ending that, to me, seems inconsistent with the character. (1 star).

Ana Luisa
Há algum tempo que sentia alguma curiosidade sobre este livro, a certa altura deixei de contar as vezes que peguei nele na livraria, havia sempre uma razão para não o comprar. Que tola fui! Assim que finalmente tive a chance de o ler acabei por devorar cada página com um apetite louco de conhecimento pelo que ia acontecendo. Ao início, perante algumas descrições dei por mim a saltitar entre essas páginas, mas de repente comecei a aperceber-me de tudo aquilo que perdia por o fazer, todo o conheci ...more

Antes de mais, gostaria de começar com um agradecimento a Elphaba, pois foi graças a um passatempo no seu blog que tive a oportunidade de ler este livro de que gostei bastante e que já o andava a "namorar" há algum tempo assim sendo: Muito Obrigada!

É sempre (ou quase sempre) muito agradável estrearmo-nos em obras cujos autores que ainda não tivemos oportunidade de ler ou que ainda não conhecíamos e este foi um desses casos. Fui surpreendida por uma história muito interessante cuja ação se desenr

Elphaba J
(Este livro era 2 estrelas nas primeiras páginas e depois mudou para 4... surpreendente?)

O Nascimento de Vénus transporta, com subtileza, o leitor para a época renascentista, para o momento exacto em que a bela Florença unia a arte à religião como se o todo de ambos fosse a única forma de honrar devidamente o Senhor.
Através de uma abastada, conservadora e, ainda assim, modesta família conhecemos Alessandra. Uma protagonista que da sua meninice à maturidade deslumbra pela sua inteligência brilha
Kate Quinn
A lovely debut novel about the Italian Renaissance. An old nun dies and her habit is stripped away to reveal a sensual and scandalous tattoo - but this is only the beginning. Alessandra is a girl of fourteen in fifteenth-century Florence, mesmerized by art and life when she should be preoccupied with marriage and suitors. Her imagination is fired by an intense young painter, but marriage brings her friendship and maturity as she realizes she has been wed as a shield to a kind but homosexual merc ...more
May 16, 2007 Denise rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant tells the story of a young woman in Florence in the late 1400s. She is well-educated and an artist which is unusual for women in that time. Her desire is to be alone to study and draw but societal conventions and her family’s position determine that her fate be either marriage or the convent. When Florence is threatened by the French army, she is forced
to make a quick decision on her future.

With the invasion looming, the city’s clergy is preaching that the sin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy Taricco
Adding to my list of top ten favorite books ever. This is historical fiction of the finest. Sixteenth century Florence, a young girl's coming of age. A phenomenal read!
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“The Devil may take the reckless, but the good will surely die of boredom. Boredom and frustration.” 48 likes
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