The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant
I picked this up because I'm trying to read books that take place in Italy before our big trip there in December! I had heard great things about this book and it was on loan from the Mommy McD library (which is what I call my mother's overflowing book shelves!). The Birth of Venus it the story of the Cecchi family, a well to do family living in Florence in the 15th Century. The father brings a painter to the house to paint the family chapel as a sign of their wealth. The oldest daughter Alexandra, also a painter, approaches the painter hoping he'll help her with her craft. Things start to fall apart in Florence, the power of the Medici family falls, the French are entering Florence and Savoranola is preaching against wealth and opulence.
I know it's not a very good description, but there is power, lust, intrigue, and all that jazz in the book as well. The story is too complicated to explain consicely without giving too much away. This book was very very similar to I, Mona Lisa and if I had realized that I probably would have tried to space them out a little. While, both books were good, this book was written better, in a more natural style. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Reading both books has made me excited for the 3 days that we'll be spending in Florence during our trip.
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, Ann Patchett
Most of you know Patchett from her highly acclaimed, Bel Canto. This is the 3rd book by Patchett that I have read, and her only work of non-fiction. Truth & Beauty is a memoir to Patchett's best friend Lucy Grealy, a fellow writer. They went to Sarah Lawrence together, but their friendship truly developed when they were at grad school in Iowa. Lucy had cancer when she was younger and it had left her face deformed. During the book, Patchett details the many many surgeries that Lucy would undergo in order to try and "fix" her face, she talks about their writing: the process, what inspired them, where they wrote; their love lives, their jobs, their successes but most importantly is the strong friendship that bound them together through the good, the bad, and the very bad.
This isn't a light-hearted, heart warming story, however it is a beautifully written tale of the power of friendship and how your friends can be your lifelines. Once again, Patchett has wowed me with her writing and I look forward to reading her other 2 books that I haven't gotten around to yet...