Monday, May 22, 2006

The Birth of Venus

by Sarah Dunant (read May 2006)
Interesting historical fiction. After reading the first chapter I was full of questions I wanted answered. I enjoyed Dunant's writing well enough that I would like to try another one of her books. According to the jacket she has written a few mysteries.

The story takes place during the late 1400's in Florence, Italy when the Medici family is basically in control of the city. When Leonardo da Medici dies, a Catholic Dominican friar, Savonarola, becomes the powerful force in Florence. The protagonist, Alessandra, is caught between the Medici state with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola's suppression.

I made note of this passage that demonstrates the conundrum going on in Alessanda's thinking.
When I was a child it had all seemed so simple. There had been one God, who, though He had a voice like thunder when angry, also had enough love to keep me warm at night when I spoke to Him directly. And the more I learned and the more complex and extraordinary the world became, the deeper His capacity to accept my knowledge and rejoice with me. Because whatever man's acheivement it came first and foremost from Him. This no longer seemed true. Now man's greatest achievements seemed to be in direct opposition to God, or this God. This God was so obsessed with the Devil the He seemed to have no time for beauty or wonder, and all of our knowledge and art was condemmed as just another place for evil to hide. So now I no longer knew which God was the true one, only which was louder.

Played against this backdrop, the story centers on Alessandra who is starting to fall in love with a young artist but who is suddenly given in marriage to a man 30-years her senior.

A worthwhile read: entertaining, nicely written, intriguing and informative. I must have missed something though, because I never figured out why it was titled The Birth of Venus.


Lotus Reads said...

What a nice review. I read this book a while back and was impressed enough to bully a friend into sending me her copy of "In the Company of the Courtesan", Dunant's latest novel. I hope I can get to it soon and I hope, too, that it's as good as 'The Birth of Venus'. Incidently, you have me scratching my head at the title - I wish I could remember more about the book to shed light on the title. Could it have to do with the transformation of the protagonist from a teenager with childish dreams to an independent, intelligent woman?

julie said...

Wow, that sounds like a very intriguing book. I think it's going to be my next read - as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Booklogged said...

Lotus, I'm sure you are right about the title. That makes sense. Let me know how you like In the Company of the Courtesan. I'd like to read that one, too.

Julie, you came up for air! Good to hear from you. I'm going right to your blog to see if you told us what books you've been reading.

Framed said...

I'm adding both to my list. It's out of control. I think I cross one off for every three I add. Well, I won't be bored any time soon.