The Birth of Venus

  • by Sarah Dunant
  • Narrated by Jenny Sterlin
  • 6 hrs and 2 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

birth of new insight

I purchased this audio so long ago and did not listen to it right away. I forgot why I even purchased it, as it did not appear to be something that would interest me. I was wrong. Right from the introduction the mystery begins. The world of Florence came to life with the authors well researched and believable fiction. I have come away from this novel with a new appreciation of art; with awe of the religious & political upheavel; shocked by the horrendous sufferings persons forced on others because they were not "godly" enough. I wonder at the shame women endured for simply being women and yet such reverence the pious render to their "holy Mary". I loved the truth in the characters and the boldness of the author to so honestly yet delicately portray what it was like for homosexuals in such a religiously heated period in history. I believe I came away with a new respect for what I believed to be an un-natural way of life. I am not sorry now that I purchased this book. I am glad I finally gave it my ear. It was not difficult to listen to either. Although I usually find it more difficult to listen to a female reader, I found this woman easy and comfortable to listen to. Enjoy.
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- Patricia

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-12-2004
  • Publisher: Random House Audio