The Birth of Venus is all the more fascinating a historical novel for the author's inability to make up her mind what it is about. Is it a novel...more
The Birth of Venus is all the more fascinating a historical novel for the author's inability to make up her mind what it is about. Is it a novel about the limited choices available to a woman with talent in Renaissance Florence--marriage or the convent? Or is it a novel about the choices you make to survive in a totalitarian society? As Savonarola takes Florence closer and closer to being an ascetic theocracy, Alessandra, her gay brother and his lover whom she has married for mutual protection find themselves in more and more peril. It could also be a detective story--Allesandra is in love with a painter whose religious mania and fascination with the body makes him a plausible suspect for a series of killings and dismemberments. Some historical novels wear their research too heavily--Dunant's is light, fluent and pacy, but her fascination with the possibilities revealed by research leaves her failing to make choices. The Birth of Venus is a highly intelligent novel kept from incoherence mostly by the intensely imagined Alessandra, through whose eyes we see the tragic end of a key moment in human culture and whose lively sensibility constantly sparks ideas about art and her time. --Roz Kaveney less
A fascinating look at a period of history when so much of the world was changing. A really good read. A love story within a love story with plenty of solid historical fact behind it and beautifully descriptive writing.