Because of the many points of view this is not the easiest historical novel to follow, but it is well worth the effort. Because of Dunant’s careful research about the Borgia family and her deft writing, the reader becomes enmeshed in the deceit and loves of the Borgia family, in particular Lucrezia. Among the points of view, I most appreciated was that of the Florentine diplomat, Machiavelli. The intrigue and back-stabbing that made the world of the Borgia pope is all here.
A continuation of Dunant's "Blood and Beauty," and even better in the writing. We see the Borgias as somehow more human, though perhaps no less frightening in this vision: there are faint echoes of Hitler in some of the "diplomacy." The relationship between Lucrezia and poet Pietro Bembo is touchingly drawn, and the electric, emotional and intellectual chemistry between masterminds Cesare Borgia and Niccolo Machiavelli alone is worth the reading.
This dazzling historical tale continues the Borgia epic that began in Blood and Beauty. Lucrezia is now on marriage three and is the newly minted duchess of Ferrara. Cesare is as power hungry as ever and is at the pinnacle of his career. Alexander VI is now an aging pope who is concerned about his family’s legacy. We see an introduction of a new voice, Niccolo Machiavelli, who is representing Florence’s interests but cannot help but be impressed by the machinations of the Borgia family. As always, Sarah Dunant succeeds in bringing history to life with her attention to detail and her well-fleshed out characters. She is not trying to erase Borgia’s bad reputation, but instead shed light on their very human motivations and desires. I appreciated that the author did not go for the story with the most scandal. Instead, she used the historical record to create a plausible telling of these characters and events. I especially enjoyed Machiavelli’s outsider perspective because it gave me an understanding of how contemporaries viewed this family. I would be hard pressed to find a complaint of this book other than I was left wishing for even more. The Borgias might still be a family we love to hate, but thanks to Sarah Dunant we might understand them a little more.
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