Friday, June 27, 2008

The Birth of Venus: A Novel

The Birth of Venus: A Novel
by Sarah Dunant

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Birth of Venus is a novel about a young girl named Alessandra Cecchi, who is born and raised in Florence, Italy, during the 15th Century. She is often out-spoken, and is bullied by one of her older brothers, Tomoso. Her father is a wealthy cloth merchant. She has a passion for art, drawing, and painting. When Alessandra's father brings home a painter from Northern Europe to decorate their palazzo (chapel) walls, she is immediately drawn to his artwork. She asks him for his help; for him to teach her his ways of painting, though everytime she asks, he gently declines. You can tell that there is much chemisty about them, as well.

Just after she turns 16, she begins menstrating, meaning it was time for her to marry. She married a man who was in his 40s, named Cristoforo. She knew that she must produce an heir for him, for he was the last of his whole family. On their wedding night, Alessandra doesn't know what to expect. Later on their wedding night, Cristoforo tells Alessandra a secret of which she had no idea. It involved Tomoso. Knowing this information could ruin her family, she kept it hidden. She and Cristoforo made an agreement that she can do what she pleases. Cristoforo was always busy with business.

Outside in the city, however, was a dangerous place. There were dead bodies turning up, that were mutilated. The city was changing. Savonarola, a monk, was brutal, along with his followers. Not long after, the plague hits. Later on, Alessandra hears news of the painter, who has locked himself in the chapel, not even coming out for his food. Alessandra hurries back to her old home, in hope to help him. She gets into the chapel, surprising him. Immediately, she notices that something is very wrong. He has hurt his hands; Alessandra thought he would never paint again. She takes him to her home, hoping to heal him. As he slept, she stayed and watched over him, wondering about kissing him. When she does kiss him, he is still, and then kisses her back. She has an affair with the painter. Knowing that she may be pregnant with his child, she knew she must sleep with her husband again.

Before she went into labor, Cristoforo realized what had happened between her and the painter. He leaves and doesn't come back. He ran off with Tomoso, though he faked his own death, so Alessandra would have her choice of marrying again or remaining a "widow." Alessandra decides to go into a convent, with her baby girl. As her child is growing up, she is painting the chapel in the convent. Later on, she has a visitor: the painter. He had been searching for her for years. It was his baby, she knew, and he took their child to Rome, where she would someday marry. The painter, however leaves his mark on Alessandra. He painted on her body, before he left. When it started to fade, she and Erila made it stay on her body, by cutting the picture into her skin. After she finishes painting the chapel, she decides that she no longer wants to live, and asks Erila to get her a mixture in which would kill her.

I really liked this book. There was a lot of information to keep up with though. Alessandra was a strong character, which I liked. The history of art is amazing as well. At first, the story was somewhat slow, but then it picked up the pace, once Alessandra marryed Cristoforo. Overall, it was a good read. And I recommend it if you like books that take place a loooong time ago, like I do. :) I read it kind of slow, but that made it easier, since there was a lot to keep up with. It was really good, though, kind of confusing in some parts.


Breanna said...

My mom loves books like this as well. I do sometimes. I have to be in the right mood. But this book sounds really good! I'll have to read it sometime.

Great review!