The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

About the book

Alessandra is not quite fifteen when her prosperous merchant father brings a young painter back with him from Holland to adorn the walls of the new family chapel. She is fascinated by his talents and envious of his abilities and opportunities to paint to the glory of God. Soon her love of art and her lively independence are luring her into closer involvement with all sorts of taboo areas of life. On excursions into the streets of night-time Florence she observes a terrible evil stalking the city and witnesses the rise of the fiery young priest, Savanarola, who has set out to rid the city of vice, richness, even art itself. Alessandra must make crucial decisions about the shape of her adult life, as Florence itself must choose between the old ways of the luxury-loving Medicis and the asceticism of Savanorola. And through it all, there is the painter, whose love will change everything.

Reviewed by Museum Book Group:

An intriguing novel set in Florence during the rule of Lorenzo Medici and influence of fanatic monk, Savonarola. The political and religious influence of the time affect the Cecci family. The story’s main theme is the youngest daughter and her black female slave. The life of women in Florence and their struggle for themselves in a male dominated society.

Star rating: ***

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4 thoughts on “The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant”

  1. Review by Enjoying Books Reading Group:
    We realised this was a book that explored life in 15C Florence at several levels. The influence of religion – relationships – some found the intense physical descriptions unnecessary but others felt they were justified. Not for the faint hearted.
    Star rating: ** – ***


  2. Review by The Accidental Reading Group:
    An interesting book on lots of levels. We found plenty to discuss – particularly the historical context.
    Star rating: ***


  3. Review by Anon reading group:
    Some members found the beginning chapter a bit off putting, but were so glad that they continued. Set against the rich back drop of Medici Florence, Alessandra grows up yearning to be an artist. Everyone enjoyed this well researched and delightful story.
    Star rating: ***


  4. Review by Hill Head Readers
    Majority of our group thoroughly enjoyed this book. In particular the historical details, the atmosphere created by the vivid descriptions and excellent characterisation. Our only criticism was the conclusion which we felt was weak and disappointing and not as rigorous as the rest of the plot.
    Star rating: ****


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