The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

I was surprised by how much I liked this book.  My mother read it before me and she found that though it got off to a good start, it eventually lost steam and became boring.  Not so for me.  I spent a few chapters in the middle of the book in tears.  The ones where she learns the truth about her marriage and tries to cope with it and the many betrayals both real and perceived.

This is not to say I did not have my problems with the book.  The first problem came up around Chapter 16 where we find our supposedly intelligent heroine, Alessandra, about to do Something Stupid (why is it the woman who always falls victim to this particular plot device?).  There is a murderer in Florence, killing and mutilating people, two women and a man at this point, and Alessandra decides to sneak out of her family’s palazzo in a final of act of rebellious freedom against the confines of women.  Alone.  At night.  And let us not forget the hovering threat of the French army on their doorsteps, or the ever increasing ascetic vitriol of Savanarola.  I know she was only sixteen at the time, but, geez.

My other problem isn’t quite so big, more of a mosquito-like irritant, buzzing around in high-pitched discord at places in the dialogue.  Erila’s dialogue to be precise.  In places, I thought it was far too modern.

All in all, I liked this book very much, greatly enjoying my trip to the waning glory of Renaissance Florence.  Enough so, that, eventually, I plan to read the sequels, In the Company of the Courtesan and Sacred Hearts, which explore other female roles of the time.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars


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