Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

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The Italian peninsula in the late 15th and early 16th centuries was a fascinating place, and the Borgias were amongst the most fascinating people in it! Thanks to Sky Atlantic, I now think of Jeremy Irons every time Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI is mentioned … although the real Rodrigo Borgia looked nothing like Jeremy Irons, LOL. Anyway, to get back to the point, Sarah Dunant writes in a gorgeously lavish way about the Italy of the time, and this book is no exception. As to the Borgias, they almost certainly were nothing like as bad as history’s tended to paint them – and it doesn’t help that, for some bizarre reason, people seem to confuse Lucrezia Borgia with Catherine de Medici. Lucrezia probably didn’t poison anyone, and there was probably no incest committed either. This is a … I’m not sure you can say positive portrayal of the Borgias, but certainly a portrayal of them as human beings, not as monsters. Sarah Dunant’s probably too kind about Cesare Borgia, whom I really do not like, but I like the way everyone else comes across. And there are some things which we really don’t know, such as which of the Borgias was a parent of the “Roman infant”. It’s not the sort of book that goes really deep, but it’s well worth reading, and I shall certainly be looking out for the planned sequel.

I used to have trouble finding books set during the Italian Wars, a pet topic of mine since covering it at A-level many moons ago, but I’m pleased to say that there seem to be loads of them about these days. Long may that continue to be the case!

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