Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I don't read a lot of books like this one, but it was good. The Birth of Venus is an historical novel set in the Florence of the Medici, during the time when Friar Savonarola came to be the spiritual leader of the city and tried to bring about the New Jerusalem. Botticelli's Birth of Venus actually turns up in the story, but only in passing, and only by reference. It's the turmoil of Florence that really acts as the backdrop for this story about a young girl who grows to womanhood amidst it. I think its fair to categorize this story as Romantic with a capital R, but it certainly isn't a bodice ripper. I've tried, I just don't like them.

The Romance in this story seems to be mainly this young woman's hopes for her future and how she'll find her way in the male-dominated society she finds herself in, especially when she dreams of a life which is simply not open to women. And the New Jerusalem thing isn't helping.

So, if the Medici/Savonarola era of Florence is the backdrop, and the plot is centered on the hopes and dreams of a young woman, then the engine that moves the story forward is art. Art is what our young heroine longs for: to experience, learn about, and (heaven forfend) to practice it herself. The scribblings of a child are a thing that Florencian society is willing to overlook, but a grown woman involved in art? Out of the question.

It appeared to me that a fair amount of research went into this book, and the feeling of what life might have been like during that time in Florence was what I enjoyed the most.

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