The Renaissance

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The Renaissance is a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century.

Historical fiction set in Renaissance Europe, selected by Forbes Library Staff. Summaries from ContentCafe, NoveList, Wikipedia, March 2011.

  • The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
    Turning fifteen in Renaissance Florence, Alessandra Cecchi becomes intoxicated with the works of a young painter whom her father has brought to the city to decorate the family's Florentine palazzo.
  • In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
    In 1527, when the city of Rome is sacked and burned by an invading army, the famed courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini and her dwarf companion, Bucino Teodoldi, escape to the wealthy and powerful city of Venice in order to rebuild their business.
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
    A poor seventeenth-century servant girl knows her place in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, but when he begins to paint her, nasty whispers and rumors circulate throughout the town.
  • Of Love and Evil: the songs of the seraphim, a novel by Anne Rice
    Former government assassin Toby O'Dare is summoned to fifteenth-century Rome at the height of the ItalianRenaissance to solve a poisoning murder linked to an earthbound spirit, a case complicated by dark ecclesiastical plots.
  • The Anatomist by Federico Andahazi
    One of Argentina's most popular authors tells the story, based on fact, of a sixteenth-century Venetian physician and secret body snatcher who is imprisoned by the Church for the heretical act of pointing out the clitoris.
  • Inés of my Soul by Isabel Allende
    Born into a poor family in Spain, Inés works hard to make ends meet. It is the sixteenth century, and when her shiftless husband disappears to the New World, Inés uses the opportunity to search for him as an excuse to flee her stifling homeland and seek adventure. After her treacherous journey takes her to Peru, she learns that her husband has died in battle. Soon, she begins a fiery love affair with a man who will change the course of her life.
  • Ex-Libris by Ross King
    Hired to restore a once-magnificent library that had been ravaged during the English Civil War, London bookseller Isaac Inchbold leaves 1660s London to journey to a remote country estate, only to become embroiled in the search for a missing manuscript and a dark conspiracy of spies, smugglers, secret codes, and forgery.
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
    In the 1660s, as Charles II and the Church of England try to quell residual opposition, Robert Grove, fellow of New College, is murdered, and four different people give their versions of the incident.
  • The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
    A fictional portrait of Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, follows her through her youthful marriage to Henry's older brother, Arthur, her widowhood, her marriage to Henry, and the divorce that led to Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn.
  • The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra
    Sent to oversee the completion of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," Dominican inquisitor Fray Agustin Leyre investigates the artist's omission of key elements and use of symbolic imagery, which suggests that there is a coded message in the painting.
  • Gloriana’s Torch by Patricia Finney
    Preparing for the 1587 Spanish Armada, Queen's Ordnance head David Becket discovers that large quantities of gunpowder have gone missing and begins to suspect that someone is betraying the English government.
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy: a novel of Michaelangelo by Irving Stone
    As a promising apprentice to the artist for a pope, Michaelangelo works in the 15th and early 16th centuries for the pope and others, and paints the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
  • Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex
    Born into wealth amid the political and artistic foment of the Italian Renaissance, worldly and ambitious Isabella and naive Beatrice d'Este, sisters and rivals, compete for the attentions of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan.
  • I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
    A meticulously detailed historical novel, set against the turbulent backdrop of fifteenth-century Florence, chronicles the life and times of Madonna Lisa, the mysterious woman who becomes the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous and enigmatic portrait and who becomes caught up in a web of dark secrets, treachery, illicit love, and murder.
  • Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory
    John Tradescant, gardener to Lord Cecil, depends on a well-ordered universe in which he serves a master, who serves the crown, who serves God. When James I succeeds Elizabeth, the social fabric begins to unravel. As he searches for new plants and creates fabulous gardens for wealthy patrons, John witnesses court dissipation and corruption.

Category: Reading Lists, Historical Fiction

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