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Extended Audio Sample The Birth of Venus: A Novel Audiobook, by Sarah Dunant Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (42,253 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Dunant Narrator: Jenny Sterlin Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2004 ISBN: 9780739310540
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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 Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain’s most innovative writers of literary suspense. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Arielle | 2/14/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book. The narrator (and main character) was so well-developed and I loved her views and her personality. The time in which the story takes place is near and dear to my heart as an art history student of the Italian Renaissance, and I have to say her history was quite accurate and did not distract me from Alessandra's own story, which I loved (as fact and fiction are not easy to blend!). It was also beautifully and poetically written in a way which did not bog me down with adverbs or slow down the story with lengthy sentences. Overall, a great (and quick) read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Atty | 1/23/2014

    " I had recently read the Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi and was floored to realize that this book seemed to be a copy! This book was not nearly as well written tet sold far more copies. A sad reality. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Penelope | 1/10/2014

    " This was a fabulous book that I enjoyed immensely. Great characters, fascinating period and a story that kept you turning the pages. From the very beginning I was hooked and found myself pondering on the story even when I wasn't reading it. Surely, the sign of an excellent book? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynn Shields | 1/5/2014

    " One of my all-time favorites "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Leah | 1/3/2014

    " The prologue offered such promise, but the book never fulfilled that promise. I never really felt like I got into it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't that good either. Maybe a second read will improve it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gemma Franks | 12/25/2013

    " I sort of enjoyed this book. most of it was a little too fanciful though and unlike other books, didn't keep me wanting to read it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marcia | 12/20/2013

    " Found this book difficult to get through, though I did enjoy the references to Renaissance Florence. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 courtney smyth | 12/17/2013

    " Loved this...great historical fiction about the art world of old. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eliza Beth | 12/15/2013

    " Art, history, love....my kind of novel! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki Venere-smith | 12/7/2013

    " I enjoyed the storyline of this book and that it is based in Italy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Darcy Daniels | 11/25/2013

    " What's not to love? Florence, Savonarola....my kind of book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Babcock | 11/17/2013

    " maybe I missed something, I remember this was THE book club book a few years ago... ugh "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carissa | 6/23/2013

    " For me this book was painstakingly slow at the beginning. I flew through the middle of the book (most of part two and all of part three) enjoying the read, but then found myself feeling disappointed with part four. Definitely a read that left me with mixed emotions about how I felt. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patty | 4/22/2013

    " Very enjoyable...historical romance. Family history set against the backdrop of Savanorola. Made me want to know more about this time, like were there women painters? I thought the ending a little odd. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mady | 11/11/2012

    " The story of a girl living in changing times in Florence. A very nice revisit of the city :) However, because I have read so many historic books lately about painters or painting, I have the feeling that I couldn't appreciate this book as much as it deserved. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim Lewandowski | 9/21/2012

    " Another great historical fiction novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dana | 9/11/2012

    " A very good read - historical fiction about Florence in the 1490s. Especially inspiring to read after being there! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 LuAnn Kinsey | 7/31/2012

    " 15th century Florence, not her best, some of the plot lines didn't really make sense to me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bridget Malachowski | 7/22/2012

    " Read this book right after I came back from a trip to Florence, Italy. It was very cool to be able to visualize all the places they were mentioning in the book. I recommend it to anyone taking a trip to Florence! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maria | 6/16/2012

    " It captures you and sends you back to Florence, in a grievous time when art is considered blasphemous. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jamie Stanley | 6/4/2012

    " I found this book to be very frustrating "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ana Elizabeth | 2/8/2012

    " After studying History of Art for a year, I devoured the vivid descriptions of Florence and Renaissance art in less than three days. Truly enjoyable work, especially for lovers of the Florentine art. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Frances Pergamo | 1/16/2012

    " Very vivid historical setting. As a lover of all things Renaissance, I enjoyed this book immensely. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emily Faraone | 10/3/2011

    " Interesting for me because I just returned from Florence so I liked knowing what they characters were talking about, good historical fiction novel "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dianne Lange | 9/2/2011

    " A vivid portrait of Renaissance Florence. Makes me want to read more about the time of Savonarola and how he came to power. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Perrin | 8/25/2011

    " I really liked this book. It was very rich and beautiful. After 3 books in a row involving nuns or priests, I think I need to try something different. I highly recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth | 5/22/2011

    " Interesting but not as good as other two in the trilogy "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mel | 5/20/2011

    " Just finished this book earlier this month..not such a fan of it. I found myself continually reading just to find a good point in the story. Will not read this book again, or recommend it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jenna | 5/12/2011

    " Amazing! I knew nothing about this period in history before delving into the story and yet I was still fascinated at how Dunant captures this moment so vividly. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ellen | 5/10/2011

    " I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars, the historical aspect of this book was interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 5/3/2011

    " Pretty good,not the best, but entertaining enough to justify reading. Ugh,,,that's a pretty weak recommendation ain't it??? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cindy | 4/30/2011

    " This is a fictional story of a young woman in Florence Italy, of love, life and art in the late 1400's.
    I would have given it a higher rating if it weren't so graphic. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jess | 4/25/2011

    " Way too cheesy for me. Discussions of art marred by silly descriptions of wet folds. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beth | 4/20/2011

    " just get through the first chapter (it's a little weird and you'll be like "what the hell am i reading!) and the rest will fall in place...........promise! "

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About the Author
Author Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestsellers The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, Sacred Hearts, and Blood and Beauty, 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.

About the Narrator

Jenny Sterlin, winner of eight Earphones Awards, has more than seventy audio titles to her credit, including Laurie R. King’s popular Sherlock Holmes / Mary Russell series. Before beginning her narration career, she helped found England’s experimental Living Theatre.