Saturday, August 24, 2013
Blood & Beauty: The Borgias - Sarah Dunant
Author: Sarah Dunant
Publisher: Random House, 2013 (Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 500 pages
Genre: Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: August 10, 2013
Finished: August 23, 2013
From the inside cover:
By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy are matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children but by his blood: His is a Spanish Pope in a city of Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family-in particular his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia-in order to succeed.
Cesare, with a dazzingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is Rodrigo's greatest-though increasingly unstable-weapon. Later immortalized in Machiavelli's The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, she embarks on a journey through three marriages, from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.
Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex, and relentless.
Aside from being Italian and loving the history of the Renaissance, I've been intrigued by the Borgia family and how ruthless and immoral they are portrayed to be.
The book is beautifully written and focuses on Cesare and Lucrezia mostly, but does touch on the other members as well. The author does a wonderful job at illustrating the kind of atmosphere that was Italy at the time and exactly why the Borgias did what they needed to in order to survive. It actually makes you feel for them in a way, because in that kind of cut-throat environment if they didn't do what they did they would've been victim to others doing the same things and would've been destroyed and left to suffer in abject poverty.
If you've seen any of the television shows about the Borgias (I've only seen the French/Czech production available on Netflix, not the Showcase version with Jeremy Irons), the novel follows historical events so a lot of the content will be the same. There are certain events that historians aren't sure exactly how they unfolded, the author makes note of these in the epilogue, so those few differ based on interpretation.
If you're a history buff or interested in the Borgias, give this a read. There's another book coming as well, so a great remedy if you find yourself wanting more.
Thoughts on the cover:
I like how the cover incorporates actual portraits of Cesare and Lucrezia, and using the teal and gold colour scheme is pleasing to look at.