review by Maryom
In 1492, the Spanish cardinal Rodrigo Borgia outmanoeuvres his opponents to become Pope Alexander VI, and continues to use his position and family to increase his power. Rules are bent to enable his eldest son Cesare to be elevated to the rank of cardinal, and plans are put into action to marry his other three children, Juan, Lucrezia and even little Jofre, off advantageously. Of course the best laid plans of today aren't the best tomorrow, and desperately courted allies soon become enemies.
This great sweeping novel captures the magnificence of Renaissance Rome, the pomp and pageantry surrounding this almost royal family, and the dirty under-hand cunning that helps them maintain their position. The Borgia family has been made infamous through stories of their cunning, treachery and ruthlessness and taken all in all I thought this was a fairly sympathetic portrayal. Rodrigo himself comes across as both a devoted churchman and loving father, though his desire for power can over-rule everything. Lucrezia, at least at this young age, is innocent but gradually becoming hardened to being a pawn in her family's plans. Cesare is a more complicated character and more brutal in pursuit of his aims. At times the plot follows one version of events but, through reports of street-gossip, gives the 'spin' put out by the Borgias' enemies to discredit them - a clever way of portraying the various interpretations of events that have been passed down through history.
An absorbing read that brings these historical figures vividly to life. It's over 500 pages, so fairly long already, but it's not the whole of the Borgias' story and there'll be a sequel...
One thing that I can't easily share here is the book's appearance - the dramatic cover is matched by black end-papers and red edges! An absolute stunner!!
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Virago
Genre - Adult Historical Fiction,
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