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.
"Arresting tale of art, love and betrayal....Dunant's vivid, gripping novel gives fresh life to a captivating age of glorious art and political turmoil." (Publishers Weekly)
"Lush and intellectually gripping novel....This is a beautifully written and captivating work." (Booklist)
"The imaginative energy of the enterprise is clearly warmblooded, playful, even reckless....Dunant puts me in mind of a well-fed cat, quick-witted house cat, crouched before the mouse hole of history. She's not that hungry, but she will pounce upon whatever emerges, just for the fun of chasing is all over the house." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Sterlin invokes excitement in hushed tones and invites one to reflect on poignant moments. Both Dunant and Sterlin catch the excitement of this important period in history." (AudioFile)
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