Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

The Birth of Venus tells the tale of a bright young teenager from a good Florence family during the 15th century. It is a story of love, relationships, politics and survival. The central character is female and as such it does focus on a woman's life in the 15th century. It is a really powerful story with twists and turns and beautifully told.

It's hard to describe this book as I don't want to give too much away. Suffice to say it's not normally the sort of book I would read as I'm not very good at books with incredible depth. I'm also not overly fond of books that are overly feminine. I realise this sounds odd as anyone who has read this blog will know one of my favourite books was 'Empress Orchid' by Anchee Min. I do enjoy reading about strong women in a male dominated society but I dislike books that are solely about love, sex and relationships. I don't know why this is but there you go. There is a certain amount about love and sex and relationships in this book but the way it was written alleviated any annoyance I might have felt.

I read this book because it is the book we're reading at the Book Club I've joined. I'd been told by one of my fellow members that I was really going to enjoy this book when she stopped me a few weeks ago to chat about it.

The book deals with the issues of a young girl with very little knowledge of the world beyond her books being thrust into the wide world. In an age where women who were avid readers were frowned upon and painting was also seen as an occupation not fit for ladies this girl has to learn how to express herself within the confines of society. It is a story about a girl, who despite everything, still manages to keep finding ways to be herself and be free. It is also a tale of a dysfunctional family set against the backdrop of political upheaval.

I would recommend anyone try this book. Don't let the strange prologue put you off. As you might expect all does not become clear until the final chapters.

*4 stars*

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Death in the Setting Sun by Deryn Lake

Death in the Setting Sun is the 10th book in the John Rawlings series. By now John is happily married with a daughter. His assistant of many years, Nicholas, has finished his apprenticeship and has his own shop. Even his father Sir Gabriel has moved into semi-retirement in Kensington and his best friend Samuel is married and expecting his first child. It would seem that all is finally going well for all the main characters, especially when Emilia falls pregnant with their second child.

However as one might expect such happiness cannot last and a tragic death of one of these characters occurs. To make matters worse John is accused of the crime and goes into hiding to prevent being arrested. Can John clear his name whilst on the run? Will his friends and family believe he is not the culprit? Will the cast of these delightful books ever get over the death of such a central character?

As always Deryn Lake's books are easy to read and get swept up in. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the previous nine books in this series and was not disappointed with this one. The story was quite heart breaking and I did feel as if Lake deliberately engineered this to keep us all on our toes. It seems to much to ask for our crime fighting heroes to have happy lives in any of the books I have been reading of late.

If you have not read a Deryn Lake book before, don't start with this one. The reason it means so much is because you have fallen in love with all the characters over the course of the series and you feel the death of a central character as keenly as the other actors themselves. I heartily recommend the first book in the series, Death in the Dark Walk. As with all Deryn's books the description is graphic, detailed but does not detract from the story. I feel I know her characters so well they jump off the page.

4 stars