Adriane Devries's Reviews > The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
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's review
Jul 25, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: historical, book-club-potential

The Birth of Venus is an historical novel set in fifteenth-century Florence amidst political, religious and artistic upheaval. Her protagonist, young Alessandra Cecchi, born into a noble family and used to luxury, must scrape together her education as an artist at a time when women were not recognized for such talents. Her rebellious nature leads to dangerous byways in her increasingly tumultuous city, until her parents decide that her safety can only be ensured through an arranged marriage, where she will learn shocking new lessons about human nature--including her own. Alessandra provides a woman’s perspective of the extravagant Medici family’s loss of political power to a religious-ascetic regime that all but eliminates women's civil rights. In an interesting twist, the most boldly free character of all is Alessandra’s beloved and brassy African slave, who treads among the streets and Machiavellian family schemes with confident ease. Though Sarah Dunant’s writing is mellifluous, the plot line moves slowly. Nevertheless, I was able to plow ahead because of the lovely scenery and cameo appearances of famous Renaissance artists.

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