The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant ( is probably best known for presenting the live BBC nightly culture programme The Late Show (1989-1996). After that she presented the BBC Radio 3 programme Night Waves. She is the author of 10 novels to date. One of her most enjoyable is The Birth of Venus (2003), set in late 15th Century Florence.

The summary is as follows. Alessandra is not quite fifteen when her prosperous merchant father brings a young painter back with him from Holland to adorn the walls of the new family chapel. She is fascinated by his talents and envious of his abilities and opportunities to paint to the glory of God. Soon her love of art and her lively independence are luring her into closer involvement with all sorts of taboo areas of life. On excursions into the streets of night-time Florence she observes a terrible evil stalking the city and witnesses the rise of the fiery young priest, Girolamo Savanarola, who has set out to rid the city of vice, richness, even art itself. Alessandra must make crucial decisions about the shape of her adult life, as Florence itself must choose between the old ways of the luxury-loving Medicis and the asceticism of Savanorola. And through it all, there is the painter, whose love exerts a powerful force upon her.

Dunant is adept at displaying the tensions and contradictions that can flourish in a woman’s mind, especially from the fertile soil of powerful emotion. You will enjoy this period piece. It may encourage you to explore Dunant’s ouevre.

Enquire at your local library or consult for full bibliographic detail.

432 pages in Virago

First published 2003

ISBN 978-1844089123

Sarah Dunant

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