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In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

In the Name of the Family

by Sarah Dunant

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An absorbing character-led historical novel following the Borgia family as they make their final major drive for dominance in Renaissance Italy. As the title suggests this is about family relationships and especially the bond between Rodrigo Borgia, now Pope Alexander VI, and his son Cesare. Rodrigo seeks to consolidate his position, confound (in other words, kill) his enemies and create a Borgia legacy for the ages. Cesare, increasingly unstable, is using his martial skills to conquer as many Italian city-states as he can, and is at growing odds with his father. Rodrigo's daughter, Lucrezia, is despatched to Ferrara to marry the ducal heir and help fix Borgia power in the region. Observing Rodrigo and Cesare is a Florentine envoy, Machiavelli, who uses their displays of power and politics to shape his own understanding of how people are governed and will lead to his great work, The Prince.

Initially centred on the state diplomacy and warring of Rodrigo and Cesare, the focus slowly shifts to Lucrezia as she develops her own political and statecraft powers and ultimately proves to be the survivor in the family.

This is an excellent book that faithfully follows the historical narrative and clearly evokes the world in which these people lived. Lucrezia is an especially well-realised and rounded character.

I thought the ending a little rushed with the Epilogue covering a lot of material in a few pages. Perhaps this is just a placeholder for a future novel covering this material at greater length and depth? ( )
  pierthinker | Mar 12, 2018 |
A storyfied version of the last few years of the height of Borgia power, Dunant does a credible job telling the story of Rodrigo (aka Pope Alex 6), his executor of nasty affairs, Ceserae, and the beautiful if deadly daughter, Lucrezia. I like Dunant's style much better than, say, Phillipa Gregory, another author known for period fiction. This is a good story about high corruption, yet with family being everything. ( )
1 vote JeffV | Feb 16, 2018 |
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. ( )
  brangwinn | Oct 24, 2017 |
This book is meant to be a sequel to Dunant’s previous book, Blood and Beauty, a fictionalized account about Pope Alexander VI (who ascended to the papacy in 1492) and his children (who included Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia). In that book, as in this one, Dunant adheres meticulously to the historical record as much as possible. She fleshes out what is known with imagined dialogue, but her stories draw so heavily on the known historical record that they hardly seems like fiction at all.

This book picks up in 1502, and begins from the perspective of Niccolò Machiavelli, the author of the famous 16th-century political treatise, The Prince. That work was based predominantly on principles inspired by the effective uses of power by Cesare Borgia. While Machiavelli admired Cesare, "Machiavellian" has become an epithet for someone known for treachery, ambition, and ruthlessness.

Dunant provides a great deal of background for the story that in large part replicates what she wrote in the previous book. If you did not read that one, you will learn that Pope Alexander VI, originally Rodrigo Borgia, had a number of children. Mistresses were common at the time, and indeed, many of the cardinals in Rome evinced the tell-tale blush of syphillis. [The first written records of an outbreak of syphilis in Europe occurred in 1494/1495 in Naples, Italy, during the French invasion. After the departure of the French, the Italians - visiting the same prostitutes, became infected with the “French Disease” in turn.] Cesare Borgia was among those who suffered from the disease. In fact, it seemed like most of the male population, or at least those in power, contracted it, with the men passing it on to their wives.

Thus there are three primary subplots in this book: one focuses on the military and political prowess of Cesare, a second on the trials and tribulations of Lucrezia related to her third marriage, and the third is the physical and mental havoc that syphillis wreaked on the population.

Evaluation: While this book takes place later in time than the first, and with a slightly different emphasis, I thought it was too similar to the first to justify a second book. In addition, I thought the characterizations were a bit more shallow in this book.

Nevertheless, the story of the Borgias and the political and religious machinations of their time in power is a good one, and I didn’t mind reading much of it again, but I did feel like I was mainly doing a “re-read.” ( )
  nbmars | Aug 25, 2017 |
I received a free advance e-copy of this book and have chosen to write an honest and unbiased review. I have no personal affiliation with the author. In the final days of the House of Borgia we see the Borgias as a ruthless and notorious family. Rodrigo a politically corrupt womanizer is pope Alexander VI using his daughter, Lucrezia, and his son, Cesare, as pawns. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Machiavelli. Sarah Dunant is a great storyteller letting the reader see a different side of Lucrezia who has poise and grace. This is a well written piece of historical fiction with a a great deal of fact. This book is well worth read and I look forward to reading more this author. ( )
  iadam | Jul 4, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812996976, Hardcover)

1502 and Renaissance Italy is in turmoil. Backed by the money and power of his aging father, Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia is soaring like a military comet, carving out a state for the Borgia dynasty. From Florence, a young diplomat, one Niccolò Machiavelli, is sent out to shadow him. The relationship he forges with the dynamic, violent young warrior allows him—and us—to see history in the making.

At the same time, the pope’s beloved daughter, Lucrezia, is on her way to a third dynastic marriage in the state of Ferrara, where she must quickly produce an heir for the Este family in order to survive. Cesare holds his sister dear, but obsessed by conquest rather than conciliation, he pays little mind to her precarious position. As the Borgia enemies gather in Rome, ready to strike, the pope grows older and more cantankerous.

With her dynamic prose and intimate knowledge of one of the most fascinating periods in Italian history, Sarah Dunant has produced a blockbuster thriller which charts the rise of one of history’s most fascinating characters, Niccolò Machiavelli, alongside the fall of one of its most spectacular dynasties, the Borgia.

In the name of the family: the richness of history told through the alchemy of fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 25 Oct 2016 23:00:11 -0400)

Renowned for her bright and disciplined way with Renaissance Italy, New York Times best-selling novelist Dunant again visits the Borgias, to whom she recently paid court in Blood and Beauty. As Cesare ruthlessly seeks to unite all of Italy's city-states under Borgia control, Florence counters by sending one Niccolo Machiavelli to Rome as envoy and Lucrezia learns the family business of big-stakes political maneuvering.… (more)

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