The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus

A Novel

Book - 2004
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Random House, Inc.
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 interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain’s most innovative writers of literary suspense. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.

Baker & Taylor
Turning fifteen in Renaissance Florence, Alessandra Cecchi becomes intoxicated with the works of a young painter whom her father has brought to the city to decorate the family's Florentine palazzo.

& Taylor

Turning fifteen in Renaissance Florence, Alessandra Cecchi becomes intoxicated with the works of a young painter whom her father has brought to the city to decorate the family's Florentine palazzo, a situation that is complicated by her unwanted arranged marriage to an older man and a battle between the Medici family and the fundamentalist followers of Savonarola. Reader's Guide included. Reprint. 200,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Random House, 2004
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780812968972
Branch Call Number: FICTION DUNANT
Characteristics: 391 p


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Jan 15, 2018

A very enjoyable book. I love historical fiction especially set in cities I've visited. The prologue gave it an interesting twist without being a total spoiler and made many aspects of the tail understandable during the read. Will certainly look for more works by this author.

Jul 20, 2017

I loved the setting (Renaissance Florence) and it's a page turner. But aspects of the story are hard to buy, particularly the love story at the novel's center.

Nov 15, 2015

I liked it. I read this book because I was going to Florence and wanted to read some novels that were set in the location. This book gave me a sense of what Florence was like 15th century and added some context to my visit.

Mar 05, 2015

Florence, Italy, XV century. Art, faith in God, the influence of the church on the daily life, love ... The book is beautiful, is written in such a way that it can be put in the shelf of classical literature. I have not read such works for long time, constantly bumping into mediocre bestsellers. And in addition this book is filled with such unexpected twists in the plot, that make it a good match for the most popular thrillers.

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 05, 2015

Set in fourteenth-century Florence, this beautifully written coming of age story is a tale of art and love, betrayal, power and religion. It brings alive the city's history at its most dramatic period through the passionate voice of young Alessandra, the talented daughter of a rich cloth merchant.

Feb 07, 2014

A good story, well told; not great literature, but several notches above chicklit. Dunant uses the trope of the ahead-of-her-time, headstrong young woman with a (mostly) supportive family, to lead us through the Bonfire of the Vanities period in renaissance Florence. The bit about the painter's identity was a bit contrived, though.

Aug 07, 2013

One of the first books I have truly enjoyed in a long time. A story of an unconventional girl in Renaissance Florence.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Set in the Italian Renaissance, this novel brings alive the history of Florence during its most dramatic period. A compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion and power, told through the passionate voice of a sixteen-year-old heroine.

Aug 23, 2011


Mar 22, 2011

Like nothing else I've ever read. Highly recommend!

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