Category Archives: 2011 Reads

Book Review: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Book Cover


When this book first came out in 2003, I was drawn to it because of the title. It brought me back to my College days, when one of my favorite professors was talking about a Botticelli painting of the same title. I did read the synopsis at the back of the book and even though it piqued my interest, not just my curiosity, I somehow ended up buying other books.


Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus


Fast-forward to 2011, at a time that I frequent most Booksale branches and this book keeps on popping up. I say to myself, “Hold on! What’s the universe trying to tell me?” Yes, I’m kind of weird like that. I always think that the universe is trying to communicate to me through the everyday goings on, people, objects, animals, plants, and pretty much anything that I happen to encounter.


You could come to the conclusion that I did buy the book and your conclusion wouldn’t be wrong.


When I started reading it, my thought bubble was “Damn! Why didn’t I read this sooner.” It  is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The writing was impeccable. The story’s got everything; coming of age, love and romance, mystery, crime, suspense and thriller, women empowerment, politics, art, passion, danger, choice.


The story revolves around a young, sassy, Florentine girl named Allesandra Cecchi who dreams of becoming an artist. She belongs to a merchant family and her father was a well respected cloth merchant and political figure. Now, the story is set at Florence, Italy during the 15th century. You have to understand that, at this particular time, women are still regarded as property. Unmarried ones belong to their fathers and married ones belong to their husbands. Women are expected to follow the bidding of their father or husband. Women’s opinions should reflect that of their father or husband. In short, having a personal opinion was publicly frowned at and is a definite no-no. So much for freedom.


It’s also safe to say, that at this particular time, women are not supposed to have “careers”. Allesandra should forget about being a well-known artist because it’s not going to happen. Besides, women are not even allowed to be an artist’s apprentice. Ergo, Allesandra would never have the chance to be trained by an artist.


The story unfolds when Allesandra’s father commissions and brings home an artist to paint the murals of the family chapel. Allesandra was drawn to the painter. In her head, she knew the painter could teach her to paint. Little does she know that she’s falling in love with the painter; and vice versa.


15th Century Florence was experiencing a lot of crimes. The period can be pretty much described as politically and morally turbulent. Art and expression is rising. Along with it, sodomy, sexual abandon, murder are also rising. Savonarola, a well-known priest, preaches that the moral decline was caused by art leading people away from God. In his opinion, the only way to save man was to destroy art. A view, that Allesandra opposes. You could just imagine the inner conflict this is causing our protagonist. It made me stop and think, “What would I have done, if I were Allesandra?” Do I pursue my passion? Or do I follow my trusted Church? Somehow, this question still applies today. Don’t you think?



My rating for this book:   

I love this book and I can’t wait to read more of Sarah Dunant’s work.



Book Review: Three Junes by Julia Glass


Summary from Bookbrowse:

Three Junes is a vividly textured symphonic novel set on both sides of the Atlantic during three fateful summers in the lives of a Scottish family. In June of 1989, Paul McLeod, the recently widowed patriarch, becomes infatuated with a young American artist while traveling through Greece and is compelled to relive the secret sorrows of his marriage. Six years later, Paul’s death reunites his sons at Tealing, their idyllic childhood home, where Fenno, the eldest, faces a choice that puts him at the center of his family’s future. A lovable, slightly repressed gay man, Fenno leads the life of an aloof expatriate in the West Village, running a shop filled with books and birdwatching gear. He believes himself safe from all emotional entanglements–until a worldly neighbor presents him with an extraordinary gift and a seductive photographer makes him an unwitting subject. Each man draws Fenno into territories of the heart he has never braved before, leading him toward an almost unbearable loss that will reveal to him the nature of love.
Love in its limitless forms–between husband and wife, between lovers, between people and animals, between parents and children–is the force that moves these characters’ lives, which collide again, in yet another June, over a Long Island dinner table. This time it is Fenno who meets and captivates Fern, the same woman who captivated his father in Greece ten years before. Now pregnant with a son of her own, Fern, like Fenno and Paul before him, must make peace with her past to embrace her future. Elegantly detailed yet full of emotional suspense, often as comic as it is sad, Three Junes is a glorious triptych about how we learn to live, and live fully, beyond incurable grief and betrayals of the heart–how family ties, both those we’re born into and those we make, can offer us redemption and joy.


My Rating:


Ambivalence is the word I’d use to describe what I felt after reading this book. I simply didn’t know how to explain the neutrality that I felt.

It’s not that the writing was bad or the story was off. Because it is well-written and  the story was well-weaved. The author was very good in creating a clear picture of what was happening. She’s also adept at describing each character that somehow I felt I’ve known them all my life. But, in the end, I didn’t really see a clear message. My thought bubble a day after reading the book was “What’s the point again?” And this question keeps popping up not because I forgot what the message was. I simply couldn’t identify her original intended message.

Don’t get me wrong though. It’s not that I didn’t like it. After all I gave it three hearts which means I liked it. I do recommend that you think twice before reading it. I guess with this book, a reader would have different lessons and insights to take home. And maybe , whatever that take home lesson is, would depend on how much you relate to the story or the character/s. Unfortunately, for me, there’s little to none.

If this is the case, why did I give it three hearts, you ask. Anyone who reads it would pick up mini-messages here and there. Especially, if you are the type who is obsessed with and constantly uses marginalia.


Thought-out Marginalia : (to be added soon)

BOOK REVIEW: Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me


Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me is a memoir written by Lisa Fineberg Cook. I stumbled upon this book in one of my spontaneous Booksale hunting whims. For those not in the know, Booksale is the haven for bibliophiles on a budget. It is a place where the persistent bargain hunter will be rewarded with Php10-finds. Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me is not one of those Php10-finds.
The copy I found was actually priced at Php75; A little pricey for Booksale standards. Most days I would have waited until the book was sold at Php45. But there’s just this voice inside my head telling me that I have to read this book now. Read the rest of this entry