The Birth of Venus, written by Sarah Dunant, is an historical fiction novel that was recommended to me by my husband. He heard just part of it read over the radio and told me that it sounded like the kind of book I would love. He was right, it is a great novel. My only complaint is that the first 100 pages or so, the prologue being the exception, were really, really slow. After that, the story picks up dramatically.
This historical novel has just about everything in it – longing, love, politics, religion, family, sex, murder, suspense, adultery, and sodomy. Surprisingly, the story opens in a convent. Sister Lucrezia has died. She had come to the convent as a young woman and was now looked upon with great respect. The nuns were not allowed to look upon their own nakedness or the nakedness of anyone else. Sister Lucrezia had asked that she be buried in her habit, that none of her clothing be removed upon her death. This wish was granted, but because she had died of a tumor, upon her death the Reverend Mother overrode these wishes and demanded that her habit be removed and burned. The tattoo that was discovered upon the removal of this deceased nun's habit left the few present speechless. I'm not going to describe this tattoo to you. If you want to know more about it, you will have to read the book.
The Birth of Venus is the story of Alessandra Cecchi, later known as Sister Lucrezia. I would not have disclosed that, but it may make the first 100 or so pages more interesting, for in those pages is disclosed some much needed backstory. Alessandro loved to paint while she was a young girl growing up in Florence, Italy. Young ladies were not encouraged to paint at this time, they were only encouraged to marry and raise children. Painters and sculptors were held in high esteem, but their skill was a gift that most thought God gave only to men. Alessandro, even though she is a female, has a talent that does not go unnoticed.
Unrest, political and religious, comes upon Florence while Alessandro is still a young lady. She rushes into marriage so that she will not be sent off to a convent. Little did she know the turmoil, longing, love, and deception that awaited her. Her marriage, much to her chagrin, turns out to be a sham. Even more upsetting to her, it appears that her family knew that it would be a sham. She feels completely and utterly alone. Only when the political and religious unrest worsen and storm over Florence destroying lives and tearing apart families is she reunited with her family.
Sarah Drunant describes what life in Florence, Italy was like at this tumultuous time in history and how it affects Alessandro and each member of her family, as well as the rest of society. The famous people who lived during this time – Monk Savonarola, the Medici family, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Da Vinci – each of them have a part in this story, even if it is just a small part.
I really want to divulge more of the storyline to you, but I don't feel that it would be fair. You already know more than I did (the true identity of the nun in the prologue) when I began reading the book. I received my copy of this book free from Paperback Swap. If you would like to own your own copy of this entrancing novel, I have included a link below to Amazon. If you buy this book through my link, it will not increase your price at all, but will add just a little to my income.