The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant, Random House, Inc, 2003, 391 pp
This is the story of a rebellious girl in Renaissance Florence, who wanted to be a painter. Instead, she is married off to an older man, because the fundamentalist monk, Savonarola, is on the rise and making life difficult for women, artists, free thinkers and wealthy families. Alessandra fits all these categories.
I've read several books set in this time and place and of all the cities I've ever visited, Florence is my favorite. Since the book is well-written and tells a good story, I liked it very much.
My favorite part was later in the story. Alessandra has entered a nunnery which is special and unique. She can have her son with her and all the women are free to pursue art, study or whatever interest they have. It is a sort of Shangri-La for women. I don't know if such a place really existed but I thank Sarah Dunant for creating the idea.