Friday, September 29, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE BIRTH OF VENUS

The Birth of Venus
Sarah Dunant
Random House

Ms. Hen picked up this book at one of the Little Free Libraries near where she lives. She knew nothing about it, but she liked the title and the cover. She read the back and learned it is a book about Florence in the 1400s, and art in the Renaissance period, and she was captivated. Ms. Hen enjoys historical fiction from time to time, so she dove into this book.

When Ms. Hen first started reading this, she realized it was a very dense read. The words are lush and stick together like ribbon candy on the page. That’s not to say she didn’t enjoy the novel, but it took some attention. Luckily Ms. Hen had some time off work, so she could sink into the pages.

This novel is about Alessandra Cecchi, a daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant in Venice in the 1400s around the time when the Medicis are in power. She is young, and her sister is about to be married. Alessandra is headstrong, and enjoys reading the classics, such as Aritstotle, and she attempts in secret to be an artist. The family hires an artist to paint the chapel in their house. Alessandra does not want to do what women are supposed to do, that is marry and have children, and keep quiet about political matters.

Alessandra gets married quickly, because she wants to get away from her family. She doesn’t know what she gets herself into when marries. Her slave, Erila, helps her with everything. Erila is a great character, because she seems to be the freest of the women in the novel, even though she is a slave. She does what she wants and gossips her heart out. She knows lots of secrets and shares her discoveries with people she chooses.

This book reminds Ms. Hen of POPE JOAN, in the way that it takes place in approximately the same time period, and it is about nuns, but this is so much better. It’s written more exquisitely, and it’s more captivating, and it doesn’t turn into a romantic women’s novel in the end. THE BIRTH OF VENUS is a sexy novel, but not in the type of a romance novel, more the style of an intelligent, realistic novel about a woman who lived in a different age.

In the prologue of the novel, an image appears of something shocking when Alessandra dies, and for the entire book, Ms. Hen wanted to know when that would show up again. When it did, she was not disappointed.

Ms. Hen loved THE BIRTH OF VENUS. She thinks it is extremely well researched and convincing. She felt as if she was in Florence in the 1400s, and she could see and smell the different elements of the city. This book makes Ms. Hen want to go to Florence. Maybe someday she will be able to see the frescos that were so painfully painted with scaffolding and fire. But until then, she has to be content to live in books for a while.

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