The Birth of Venus (Random House Reader's Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

This new deluxe eBook edition features more than eighty additional pages of exclusive, author-approved annotations throughout the text, which contain new illustrations and photographs, to enrich your reading experience. You can access the eBook annotations with a simple click or tap on your eReader via the convenient links. Access them as you read the novel or as supplemental material after finishing the entire story. There is also Random House Reader’s Circle bonus ...
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The Birth of Venus (Random House Reader's Circle Deluxe Reading Group Edition): A Novel

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Overview

This new deluxe eBook edition features more than eighty additional pages of exclusive, author-approved annotations throughout the text, which contain new illustrations and photographs, to enrich your reading experience. You can access the eBook annotations with a simple click or tap on your eReader via the convenient links. Access them as you read the novel or as supplemental material after finishing the entire story. There is also Random House Reader’s Circle bonus content, which is sure to inspire discussion at book clubs everywhere.
 
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florence palazzo. A child of the Renaissance with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the artist’s abilities.
 
But Alessandra’s parents have made plans for their daughter, and she is soon married off to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, the reign of the Medicis, with their love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, is being threatened by the hellfire preaching and increasing brutality of the fundamentalist monk Savonarola and his reactionary followers. As the city shudders with violence and change, Alessandra must find her own way—and finally explore the passions she’s kept so long at bay.
 
“Simply amazing, so brilliantly written . . . almost intolerably exciting at times, and at others, equally poignant.”—Antonia Fraser
 
“A broad mural bursting with color, passion, and intrigue.”—People
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679645498
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/12/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 504
  • Sales rank: 290,085
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Sarah Dunant
Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestsellers The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts, which have received major acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Her earlier novels include three Hannah Wolfe crime thrillers, as well as Snowstorms in a Hot Climate, Transgressions, and Mapping the Edge, all three of which are available as Random House Trade Paperbacks. She has two daughters and lives in London and Florence.

Biography

British novelist, broadcaster, and critic Sarah Dunant is well known on both sides of the pond for her bestselling series of mysteries featuring sleuth Hannah Wolfe. Other novels feature the challenging, often absurd, choices women face for love and identity.

Dunant's first two novels were actually co-authored with Peter Busby, thus creating their pseudonym, Peter Dunant. In Exterminating Angels (1983), whether they're called terrorists or modern-day Robin Hoods, the Exterminating Angels are out to set the record straight. For them, the ends always justify the means when righting the wrongs of the world. The political thriller Intensive Care (1986) describes a chance meeting at the site of an explosion in London.

The first book to be released under her own name was Snow Storms in a Hot Climate (1987), and features Marla Masterson. Marla, a young British professor of Anglo Saxon Literature goes to New York City to rescue a friend from her drug-addled, abusive boyfriend, but not before a murder mystery ensnares them all.

Three years later, Dunant introduced readers to Hannah Wolfe, a tough and witty Private Investigator. In Birth Marks (1990), Wolfe is hired to find a missing ballerina. Unfortunately, the dancer is found by the police -- eight months pregnant and at the bottom of the Thames. When everyone but Wolfe writes off the young single woman's death as a suicide, Wolfe pushes her investigation into London's dance companies and powerful Parisian families, searching for the father. Wolfe's reputation is put on the chopping block in Fatlands (1993). Wolfe finds herself on the trail of a violent animal rights activist group after they kill the daughter of a wealthy scientist for using animals in his experiments. The novel won Dunant a Silver Dagger award for Crime Fiction. Disguised as a customer, Wolfe investigates a string of sabotage at the Castle Dean health spa in Under My Skin (1995) and soon learns that, to some, beauty is something to die -- or kill -- for.

Breaking from her Hannah Wolfe series, Dunant's next release explores the line between victim and victor. In Transgressions (1997), translator Lizzie Skvorecky is making a living translating cheap Czech thrillers into English. When the strange events of the novels seem to occur in her real life, Lizzie realizes that someone -- or something -- is tampering with her reality, and accepts the violent challenge to her sanity. Kirkus reviews describes the novel as "an unsettling, often chilling, portrait of a compulsive predator and the woman who refuses to be his prey."

Mapping the Edge (1999) also portrays a woman's unusual challenges. When Anna, a single mother, takes a short vacation to Italy, leaving her six-year-old daughter with trusted friends, no one thinks twice. Until she doesn't return when scheduled. Anna's friends and her daughter endure the painful waiting while Dunant offers two explanations of Anna's disappearance. What if Anna abandoned the responsibility of motherhood to follow a hot love affair? Or perhaps Anna's life is in the hands of a sadistic killer.

Along with writing fiction, Dunant has also edited two works of non-fiction. War of the Words: The Politically Correct Debate (1994) debates the ever-changing idea of what is "acceptable" and the effect political correctness has on Liberalism. In The Age of Anxiety (1999), ten essayists discuss their anxiety -- or optimism -- for issues such as technology, family, and the end of the millennium.

Dunant's 2004 release marks her foray into historical fiction. The Birth of Venus captures the passion and the politics of deMedici Florence in the grips of a fundamentalist religious overhaul. As the city starts to purge itself of "the low and vulgar arts," the novel's heroine, Alessandra, falls in love with a young, suffering painter. Although her family marries her to a much older man, it is mostly a dismal marriage of convenience and she has a surprisingly large amount of time to spend at the side of her true love. Intelligent and daring, Duanant has combined a love story, a thriller and a historical novel in telling Alessandra's quest to find and protect her passions.

Good To Know

In our interview, Dunant shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself with us:

"I once worked as a hostess in a Japanese nightclub."

"My left foot is bigger than my right."

"I cannot whistle (no Humphrey Bogart for me, then)."

"Alas I don't have time to relax, although I am trying. The most important things in my life are my work, my children, my friends, and the possibility of a plane ticket to somewhere I have not yet been. When my kids grow up I want to have enough energy to get out a rucksack and take a long trip without a due-back-by date and the wonder to be changed by what I discover en route. Though right at this moment what I would like most is to remember where I put the car keys."

"And when it comes to writing, I just want to say that the novel is not the author. Just as the life is not the work or the work the life;instead literature is a kind of alchemy: turning lead into gold. Or at least that's the ambition."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Peter Dunant
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 8, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cambridge University, 1973

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 237 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(112)

4 Star

(77)

3 Star

(27)

2 Star

(15)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 237 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2008

    A Strong Novel That Fizzles in the End

    'The Birth of Venus', set in 15th Century Florence, is a story of art, intrigue, and power. Dunant captures the importance of art in the period, the struggles of women at that time. She also shows the destruction and resurrection that religious fervor can cause. Dunant did an excellent job capturing my attention throughout this book with her strong story lines, and her hints of stories yet to be unveiled later on in the book. I stayed-up for hours to read this book, and even brought it to work to read at lunch because I hungered for more! She introduces mesmerizing characters and builds the background of events so carefully, that you wonder what culmination will come of it. Unfortunately, Dunant also makes the mistake that many writers do, of finishing her work too early, in a rush to end the story. The beginning and 'meat' of the novel were outstanding, but the characters fizzled in the end, and the story line with them. The revelation of the mysteries hinted in the book are disappointing at best, and can best be described as boring and uninspired. I will give this book 4 stars because overall it was a very enjoyable read, but it is almost as if a second author came in and finished 'Part IV' after just glancing at the first three parts.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    The Birth of Venus

    For fans of historical fiction, this book will take you on a ride you¿ve never experienced. The Birth of Venus grabs your curiosity and never seems to let go. It takes you through the journey of Alessandra Cecchi a teenage girl living in 15th century Italy as she struggles to hide her passion for art. Her passion only deepens when a painter comes to paint the chapel walls of her home, but her intrigue is paused due to her marriage to a man who hold secrets bigger than hers.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2006

    Better than most!

    The earlier chapters of this book had me hooked but I must agree with some the comments about the ending it is a little disappointing. All in all, it is better than most and the historical (both events and art) back drop is enthralling.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2006

    i adored it

    Everything about this book is amazing, the rich history of Florence which Dunant paints perfectly into the reader's mind, and the struggle of women during the acme and fall of Florence. Alessandra Cecchi is a wonderful, vibrant leading character, able to keep the reader detailed in the history of the novel and the passion and love she shares for both her husband and the painter. I stayed up until 4am reading this and it truly is an amazing story, but I really wished that the painter just took Alessandra away and spent life happily ever after. But, despite that, this story is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    suspenseful and interesting historical background

    Set in Florence at the time of Savanarola, just after the Medeci era, this book gives life to the historical background and makes it more memorable and easier to understand. It would not be one of my all-time favorites, but if you are planning to make a trip to Florence it would be more fun to read this first than just a guidebook. There is a trick in the plot that keeps you wondering and interested throughout.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2007

    A reviewer

    Overrated, this novel takes a stock heroine-- bright teenaged girl near arranged marriage, considered ugly duckling, inwardly rebelling against her female role in society. Though she never does anything about it. Supposedly she is versed in the classics, but we get none of that in her viewpoint, only how she longs to paint various saints, ad nauseum. Although religion played a big role in this time, people couldn't have thought about it to the exclusion of everything else, as she virtually does. The real story is the rise and fall of Savonarola in Florence. There is a weak watered-down romance which plays only a small role. It is hard to understand how the writing itself is praised. It is workmanlike and pedestrian, nothing out of the ordinary in any book. The research appears good, but it's disappointing overall.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2008

    great story...

    ...really uninspired ending though.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2008

    A wonderful story!

    Was a really great book. At first I was not so into it...but I kept on reading and couldnt put it down until I was done with it.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2008

    I Never Even Finished It

    Historically, it was very well-researched. Unfortunately, that is the only nice thing I can say.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2007

    Captivating Story, Very Well Written

    I really loved this book. It was a historical fiction but also a bit of a romance novel, but always tasteful, classy, and never over emotional, sexualized or seedy. Everything was so realistic and the story of this girl was really so believable and entertaining. The book spans the life of this girl and often parallels what is happening in the city at the time. So entertaining and very believable. Very well written, plot and writing equally interesting. Highly recommend!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2013

    Preferred In the Company of the Courtesan

    I read Sarah Dunant's In the Company of the Courtesan before purchasing this book. Unfortunately, I felt The Birth of Venus was lacking.

    While the picture she paints of Renaissance Florence is interesting and lively, the main character is a bit unbelievable and feels far fetched to me. Beyond that, the whole thrust of the story felt forced.

    If you are interested in historical fiction books based around Renaissance artists, I would recommend Leonardo's Swans over The Birth of Venus.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2007

    Displeasing.

    I read this book in a week. One very long week, if I might say so myself. I found myself concerned with the 'painter's' life more than any other aspect of the novel. I don't usually read the more modern fiction so I guess I was surprised and disgusted with its obscenities. As if there wasn't enough sex on TV. I would definately suggest Irving Stone's 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' over anything of Dunant.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2006

    Shocked...I loved it!

    I had heard good things about this book, but every time I picked it up I put it back down. I usually don't get into anything that's not more modern. However, I was blown away by how well written this was. Not only that but how fascinating the story was. As reading the reviews, it amazes me how closed minded people are about sexuality, or anything that doesn't conform to society in books. This was a great story one reason is how different this was compared to so many other books you find on bookstore shelves. I found that the characters all had such interesting stories, and characteristics. They were all so very different, yet the same in so many ways. I ran right out and bought another book by Dunant. I hope to find another intriguing book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2006

    Character Disappoints

    I was immediately enthralled with the mystery in the first chapter of the book. I then followed the story with zeal, enjoying the artistic and historic views of Florence. I felt the end of the story was preposterous, and the main character needed some character improvement. As a nun in a convent, I would have really liked it if she had done something more to help others, than to concentrate on her own fulfillment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2006

    Fantastic Book!

    Alessandra was an incredible person - very strong individual. I don't usually read books that go into great detail with history, but this was written with such grace that I had a hard time putting it down. Sarah Dunant was at her best when she wrote this!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2006

    Historical Page-Turner

    The historical and fictional plots of this book will hook you, possibly into staying up reading later than you normally would. I found particularly interesting exactly how the fate of women in such an 'enlightened' period of history was determined by men. Although some might be turned off by how the main character seems a 'puppet', I feel that the author is painting a true picture (sorry for the unintentional pun) of how life really was. The author does an excellent job of retelling the history and weaving in several subplots as to how people were affected by the events of their time. The details of the architecture and art of the time were quite impressive and thoughtfully placed. The only disappointment I had was a lack of development of chemistry between Alessandra and the painter. It made certain parts of the plot feel forced rather than a natural occurrence. In all, a good summer read for a history buff.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2006

    Vaguely Interesting and Mildly Disjointed

    The action of this novel takes places in Florence at a time when art, lust, sin, passion, and religion collide. The book recollects the journey of naive Alessandra Cecchi, supposedly a freethinking, fiery rebel. While she matures physically, she remains, 'til the end, highly dependent. She makes foolish decision after foolish decision and never improves. Although she endures hardships, I was never able to sympathize with Alessandra. The plot alternates between speeding and plodding, and the main character is bed-ridden during crucial moments. That aside, there is enough scandalous intrigue to make me pleased with the plot. The prose has descriptions that succeed in captivating the senses. However, none of the characters are fully 'fleshed out' (pun intended). Their backstories are quickly alluded to and their own views aren't expressed. Younger readers should be cautioned due to certain potentially objectionable scenes. There is a birth description horrific enough to easily prevent teenage pregnancy forever. Overall, this is a book for mature women who enjoy romance novels and are seeking a bit of history and culture.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2006

    Outstanding writing and story

    Sarah Dunant has woven a tale that is spellbinding. From the prologue on you are engrossed in a story too exciting to put down. Her description of the time and her scenes and settings are so vivid you smell the air and hear the sounds. Florence and the history of the time and the intrigue and religious domination is a part of its history not ever told as well, as in this book. Art, sex, friendships, berayals, and intrigue fill every page. Sarah Dunant is a great writer, however this is her best. I hope she has more to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Loved this book! From beginning to end, I was mesmerized by the

    Loved this book! From beginning to end, I was mesmerized by the language, the characters and the plot. Beautifully written and engaging.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2013

    Beautifully written

    I love the mix of history and fiction

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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