I always enjoy and appreciate an excellent reading recommendation. My gratitude to the library user who recommended this novel.
Thanks to her, I discovered the writing of Sarah Dunant.
Sarah Dunant is a writer, broadcaster and critic. She was born in London and studied history at Cambridge University.
She has written eight novels, two screenplays and edited two anthologies of essays. She has worked in television and radio as a presenter and a producer, is a patron of the Orange prize for women’s fiction, sits on the editorial board of the Royal Academy magazine and reviews for The Times, The Independent on Sunday and The Guardian.
Her novel, The Birth of Venus, was intriguing and mesmerizing while telling an amazing story that unfolded like a rich tapestry in the late 1400s to early 1500s.
Alessandra Cecchi is a young woman of an established family in Florence, Italy. This novel opens with her death but then proceeds to recount her life in the first person.
The youngest child, she has an older sister and two brothers. Her slave Erila is devoted to her in childhood and given to her when she marries. Alessandra is intrigued by art and wants to paint but is reduced to drawing sketches that no one sees. It is not fitting for a young woman of her class to have paint-laden fingernails. Her relationships with her family members waver between loving and forgiving, yet with undeniable tension. Especially with her brother, Tomaso, who sets her up with her husband-to-be; not exactly with her best interest at heart. There is always an image to portray, status to sustain and social connections to be made.
As a matter of his wealthy stature, her father hires a painter for their family chapel. Alessandra is entranced by what the painter does and yearns to be a part of it. She feels an attraction to him but language and other barriers stand in the way.
Set against the backdrop of political and religious turmoil in Florence, Italy, Alessandra describes in gripping details the impact the Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola had on her city and culture. The author paints a picture of a wealthy Florentine family who makes their way through the strife and turmoil of the time.
Using the words of Sarah Dunant – “The Devil may take the reckless, but the good will surely die of boredom. Boredom and frustration.”
I promise, you will not be bored reading her novel, The Birth of Venus.