Book Review: Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant
Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant
Interested in Rome and the Italian Renaissance? Love historical novels that are impeccably researched, steeped in a sense of place and time, with memorable characters? Then Blood & Beauty is a novel you must read. Sarah Dunant is acclaimed for her previous novels set during the Italian Renaissance, but she now tackles the era’s most infamous family: the Borgias. Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope Alexander VI in the fifteen century, in a time of tremendous creativity and artistry, but also terrible corruption and brutality. He is a man with large appetites, a charismatic politician who desires power and success. Despite his position in the church, when the story opens he already has four illegitimate children by one lover, and he is currently involved in a passionate love affair with another married woman. He is a wealthy man, but surrounded by enemies, partly because he is Spanish by birth in a city of Italians, partly because of the power he welds. He adores his four children, but despite his love, they are pawns in his political games. Lucrezia, his only daughter, is a young teenager when the story opens, but in the course of the novel she is married three times, experiencing love, loss and heartbreak along the way. Of the three sons, Juan is the fun-loving, adored pet; Jofre is the adolescent, insecure youngest; while oldest son Cesare is the Pope’s right-hand man with ruthless ambitions of his own – and a heart of cold, cold steel. This is a deeply troubled family. Lucrezia is adored by her brothers, but the brothers are constantly in conflict. Add in illicit love affairs, betrayal, revenge and murder and the story of the Borgias family almost makes the antics of the Tudors look tame.
This is a masterful novel that is utterly enthralling. What a time in history! Sarah Dunant is definitely the novelist to tackle this period of history and this controversial family. You are in good hands when you read this novel.