443 von 490 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Sarah Dunant's "The Birth of Venus" feels similar to Tracy Chevalier's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" and Susan Vreeland's "Girl in the Hyacinth Blue." All three are works of historical fiction that have the ability to convince, albeit fleetingly, that they must be true.
However, "The Birth of Venus" isn't based on the Botticelli masterpiece that still resides in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It's based on the metaphorical "birth" -- and transformation -- of a girl-turned-woman whose single-mindedness is constantly thwarted by actions which force her to conform to 15th century Florentine society.
I'm not big on novels associated with the feminist school of thought that suggests forbidden romance, in all of its forms, brings liberation. Yet I was blindsided by Dunant's "The Birth of Venus" - especially its socko-ending - coming from an author better known for her crime novels and TV appearances in the United Kingdom.
Dunant's accomplishment: She establishes familiar plot threads about her protagonist, Alessandra. Hers is a page-turning, rebellious story. You start to feel smug because you think you've figured out how everything's going to end. But just when you think you're heading toward a familiar train wreck, Dunant puts you through many unpredictable (but mostly plausible) 90-degree plot turns that are wonderfully intriguing.
"The Birth of Venus" may not be high literature, but it's Dunant's best work to date. Her love for her adopted city of Florence is obvious. She goes out of her way to spin a fictional tale that's rooted in well-researched, historical reality. The "superstars" of the Renaissance make their appearances, but never in a jarring, manipulative or name-dropping way. They're part of the landscape. And if you know the geography of Old Florence, you also know that even today, it's small enough that you can't help running into these guys.
So what keeps this book from perfection? In my view, just two things:
First, modern slang occasionally surfaces that feels incongruent to 21st century readers who've been drawn into a setting that's more than 500 years old. Yeah, I know we're reading a "fictional translation" of Italian narration to English, but it's still a little jarring to read present-day colloquialisms sprinkled throughout a novel that's mostly placid in tone. Contrast this with erotic passages which for the most part, are devoid of crudeness (though at times described a little too self-consciously).
Second, about those erotic passages. There aren't many. They're executed, for the most part, with great sensitivity. I hate sex described in clinical terms. But a couple of times Dunant comes too close to projecting thoughts into Alessandra's narration that feel pretentious, a little too lyrical or metaphorical, even from the voice of an adult who's "looking backward." Do women really string metaphors about sex together, as you read here, even in their most reflective and introspective moments? As a result, what's supposed to "feel" like sexual "liberation" rings a little false. And I still don't get the stuff involving the tattoos (you'll know what I mean when you get to it).
Suspending disbelief is obviously required when great figures creep into a novel. "The Birth of Venus" weaves its "tale" cleverly, but I wish Dunant's Alessandra had gone no further when she describes the return, years later, of the man who remains an important figure in her life.
She beautifully says, "We had always been bound to each other through the power of longing, even when we understood nothing of desire."
I wished Dunant had stopped there. Instead, she plows ahead with the inevitable "scene" that would've been better suggested than described in a way that feels a little forced, posed and "artsy." I became aware of Dunant's writing. And this isn't supposed to happen. A great story is supposed to make you less conscious of great prose.
I'm still baffled about the mysterious man who's never identified by name. We're given a few clues, but he remains a cryptic figure, a brooding and tortured artist who returns years later so worldly and wise. He reads like every woman's fantasy, a Renaissance romantic too good to be true.
In the end, these may be small quibbles.
It may not be necessary to know the "Who's Who" of the Renaissance, e.g., Savonarola, Medici, the whole lot of 'em, and it may not be necessary to walk the streets of present-day Florence to "get" what's in "The Birth of Venus." But they do enhance the enjoyment of a story that's set in one of the world's most romantic cities. I hope readers less familiar with Florentine art and history get the same wallop I did after finishing it.
A helpful tip: remember this book is being told in the first person AND in the past tense. This way, when you reach the final 30 pages of Alessandra's story, you'll realize you're being set up for a twist.
To my relief, it's unpredictable and immensely satisfying. Without giving it away, "The Birth of Venus" closes unconventionally yet beautifully; optimistically yet realistically; quietly yet without being thrown into the throes of depression.
I still prefer non-fiction over fiction. But as I once wrote about another historical novel I equally enjoyed, if more books were written like Dunant's "The Birth of Venus," I'd stop going to the movies.
55 von 59 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Diana Faillace Von Behren
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Alessandra tells her story of Florence during the tight reign of the monk Savonarola, in the form of a memoir, found after her death by fellow sisters in a provincial convent. Living in an age where classic thought and sensibilities are revisited and possessing an acute mind and an acrid tongue, she must resign herself to a more conventional role as a woman of the Renaissance, bound by duty to marry and bear children rather than be the philosopher painter she wishes to be. From the moment she encounters the painter from the North that her father has commissioned to paint the family chapel, she is relentless in seeking him out. While her first desire is to learn the secrets of color and brushwork, she finds herself attracted to the painter in ways she had not expected, and finds herself frustrated in more ways than she bargained when she must follow her appointed path as a Florentine woman.
The plot itself follows a rather straightforward course steered by somewhat predictable but well-crafted characters. Blended expertly with historical details of the age: the reign of the Medici family, the invasion of Florence by France, the paranoia of the city while under the helm of the monk, and the dropping of famous names like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Fra Angelico and Da Vinci, the author presents us with a fictitious view of what life could have been like back in the early 1500s. Alessandra's mindset is indeed, that of a 20th woman, a bit cynical and slightly world-weary for one of such tender years, but this adds to her appeal to the author's intended audience. Overall, the storyline compels one to read on and contains enough hints and little mysteries to keep even the most well-read reader turning the pages.
However, what fails miserably is the author's lack of solving any of the mysteries that she so tantalizingly provides for us. Alessandra fixates on the form of the snake tattooed on the man in the square, so much so that she has one tattooed on her own body---but the reason for her action is muddled and I for one do not understand the actual significance---an act of defiance? Empathy with Eve and her sin? Ironically, the significance of one of the most compelling symbols in the book remains coiled but never unfurled. Similarly, the author hints at the great artist that Alessandra loves and gives us enough clues to make some sort of guess to his identity, but then never actually tells us who he is or if he even existed. We know he is Flemish from the descriptions of the North Sea and the low country. We know he studied anatomy when it was forbidden with the likes of Michelangelo at Santo Spirito. We know that after the fall of Savonarola, he goes off to Rome to escape further persecution. He returns much later, worldly his sexual and artistic techniques honed like a razor, but again, we do not know his identity. Personally, as I read, I assumed he was a creation, but enough of my fellow reviewers have voiced that he was a real historical figure for me to investigate. Lastly, the title, calling to mind Botticelli's masterpiece, has little or nothing to do with the plot. As this book was published in the same time period when books like Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring have great popularity, one cannot help but think that the title suggests another imaginative story behind a great work of art. The Birth of Venus, however, is the story of a woman and her duty rather than her act as muse for a great painting or sculpture.
Bottom line: if you are looking for a Girl With a Pearl Earring type confection, you will not find it here. However, if a story told from a woman's perspective, albeit imagined, piques your interest especially told in the colorful velvet world of art and enlightenment of the Renaissance (even in the shadow of Savonarola) you will enjoy undertaking this short journey of duty, love and art.