Rated of 5
The Birth of Venus did not disappoint me for a page-turning summer read. It gave flesh and feeling to a time and place that I'd pretty much ignored ubtil viewing the PBS special on the reign and fall of the Medici's. Sure, it's not Significant, Great Literature, but I thought she did artfully create suspense, maintain a few twists, have familiarly believable characters, painting a multi-sensory Florence, and, most importantly perhaps, leaving me wanting to investigate more...through quality historical fiction maybe, but especially also biography, art, sculpture, other non-fiction sources as well. She also left me wishing I had the indomitable spirit of Erila, but I'll have to be content with just a good share of Allessandra's curiosity ! Do you not imagine who might be suitable to play "the painter" if it were a movie?
My sole nagging concern is whether to give it to my intelligent, literary & artistic, adventurous, compassionate daughter to read, who I am sure would love it. Admittedly mature for 16 (way beyond where I was at that age, and sometimes more matter-of-fact comfortable about things than I am today), the graphic sexual scenes (self-satisfaction ones) and the discussions of sodomy, though historically and still a realty/ fact-of-life, were just a wee-bit much even for me, who's certainly read such material, but its the unexpected presence here in this otherwise historical-romance-adventure, that keeps me in a quandry as to the Young Adult appropriateness. I only fear that Dunant may have limited her audience's recommendation of an otherwise very fine book.
However, if we readers of The Birth of Venus do not feel moved to dig out our coffee-table Italian Art books, or search for an illustrated copy of Dante's immortal Divine Comedy, then it is we who lack something essential, not Sarah Dunant.