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Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant
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7489519,299 (3.66)64
A tale inspired by the lives of Borgia siblings Lucretia and Cesare traces the family's rise in the aftermath of Rodrigo Borgia's rise to the papacy, during which war, a terrifying sexual plague, and the family's notorious reputation forge an intimate bond between brother and sister.

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I always depend on Sarah Dunant when I want well-written 'Ivory-and-Merchant' historical fiction without the bodice-ripping. I know almost nothing about the Borgias and I assume there aren't many undisputed facts anyway, but I didn't see any glaring anachronisms. But again, what do I know. As other readers have said, this book doesn't have the psychological subtlety of Hilary Mantel's brilliant trilogy, but that's a lot to ask of any novel. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
It seems more like a history book rather than a novel. Also, I find fiction written in the present tense rather annoying. ( )
  bookhookgeek | Sep 7, 2018 |
2.5 stars

This book follows a fictional account of the Borgias. Rodrigo became pope in the late 1400s. He had four(?) children, including Cesare and Lucrezia. History has not looked upon them kindly. Rodrigo had a number of mistresses. Cesare, though becoming a cardinal (for a while) also slept around. There were rumors of incest among them, and murders happened. This book opens when the conclave is happening just as Rodrigo will be voted in as the new pope and Lucrezia is 13 years old and soon to be married.

How was this even acceptable for a pope!? How did he get voted in? (Hmmm, missed in in my reading of the book, but the summary tells me he bought his way to the papacy.) And for a cardinal (Cesare)? All the sleeping around. Even if there wasn’t any incest going on, Rodrigo’s children made it obvious he wasn’t celibate. Was this not a requirement of priests and higher ups in the Catholic Church at the time!? Anyway, I just didn’t find most of the book very interesting. I found the parts that focused on Lucrezia the most interesting and paid most attention to that, otherwise I was often skimming. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 30, 2018 |
Dunant really knows how to set the scene. I particularly enjoyed Lucrezia's growth as a woman and a politician. I can't wait to read the follow up, if indeed there ever is one. This was satisfying on its own, but I could definitely read more :-) ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
An interesting story, though highly fictionalized. The fiction makes the facts easier to remember, though. This was done in 10, 13-minute segments. Curiously, Lucrezia is devoid of any vice here, at least in the abridged-audio version. Although, this dropped off the story seemingly midway through. Perhaps there's a sequel? ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
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To Anthony,
who has made the present as rich as the past.
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By the late fifteenth century, the map of Europe would show areas as broadly recognisable to a modern eye. (Historical Note)
Dawn is a pale bruise rising in the night sky when, from inside the palace, a window is flung open and a face appears, its features distorted by the firelight thrown up from the torches beneath.
More than many in history, the Borgias have suffered from an excess of bad press. (Historical Epilogue)
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By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is 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: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by 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 dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his 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, hers is a journey through three marriages, and 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 his reign.
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