How can you not love a novel that has a tattooed nun, the monk Savonarola, Lorenzo the Magnificant and all the intrigue of 15th century Florence? The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant is one of the best historical fiction novels that I have ever read, and I have read a lot of them.
Sarah Dunant’s writing conjures up what life in Florence, Italy would have been like at a time when wealthy families hired artists to paint their private family chapels and Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella were places of worship and not primarily tourist attractions.
The Birth of Venus begins when Alessandra Cecchi is a precocious adolescent who has not yet realized that women of her time do not have any choices in life. This is an age when women are married off to men who can help improve the status of the family with no consideration given to their happiness. Personal freedom is something that women dare not consider even in their dreams.
Alessandra shows artistic potential but will not be allowed to develop her talent. Instead, she becomes infatuated with a young painter who is hired to paint her family’s chapel.
Sarah Dunant’s, The Birth of Venus, has a cast of characters straight out of Renaissance Florence. Lorenzo Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificant), is near death after a rein that encouraged learning, luxury and all the arts. The fanatical monk Savonarola is coming into power and bonfires are burning in Florence as her residents rid themselves of art, books and anything else that can be considered a
distraction to religion.
Part thriller and part historical fiction this fast paced novel will keep you enthralled. The Birth of Venus begins at the end with Alessandra’s death in a convent and the discovery of her serpentine tattoo by nuns preparing her body for burial.
Sarah Dunant is a British novelist, critic and broadcaster. The Birth of Venus is her first historical novel. Sarah Dunant has written a number of other novels including two co-authored with Peter Busby. Other novels by Sarah Dunant:
• Exterminating Angels (1983) co-authored with Peter Busby
• Intensive Care (1986) co-authored with Peter Busby
• Snow Storms in a Hot Climate (1987)
• Birth Marks (1990), Fatlands (1993) and Under My Skin (1995) are mysteries featuring Private Investigator Hannah Wolfe
• Transgressions (1997)
• Mapping the Edge (1999)
• The Birth of Venus (2003)
• In the Company of the Courtesan (2006)
You will not be disappointed with Sarah Dunant’s, The Birth of Venus. It is a joy to read a novel that is so engrossing that you are surprised when you put it down and have to reach over to turn off the light rather than blow out the flame of a candle.