Masterpiece or Finger Painting? It's All a Matter of Perspective

By Mandy Boyle
Advertising Sales Manager

A page-turning novel is the sort of thing that brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You feel pleased about finishing the work so quickly, and every now and then you feel as if what you’ve read was genuinely good. Such a find is rare these days, as most book shelves are flooded with mediocre and cookie cutter pieces.

In the case of Sarah Dunant’s Birth of Venus, the opinion of whether or not it is a page turner relies on the matter of taste and preference.

The story details the growth and self-discovery of Alessandra, a daughter of a fabric merchant in Renaissance Florence. In a time where a woman’s individuality was compromised, the heroine shines through as she takes life in stride, most importantly, on her own terms. Immersed in her artwork, Alessandra begins her development after a young painter, employed by her father, comes to her home, connecting her with the moving qualities found in art, and in life.

Personally, I feel that getting historical fiction right is a rare occurrence, but I mostly read non-fiction and classic literature. However, Dunant does make a commendable effort, recreating Renaissance Florence with vibrant texture. Her use of language in describing Alessandra’s emotions is lovely, but the relationships between her and other characters can get a bit tricky and inconsistent. Granted, the plot twists are a nice touch, but I felt my interest slipping at times. There are many underlying themes, many of which connect to religion in relation to self-discovery. In addition, motifs of art in many mediums, ranging from fabric to flesh, are present. All in all, a worthwhile read.

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