Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Blood & Beauty - Sarah Dunant

Blood & Beauty
Title: Blood & Beauty: The Borgias
Author: Sarah Dunant
Publication Date: 5/2/13
Pages: 506
How I Found It: It's been on my TBR for a while.
Date Completed: 5/3/16

Summary: Once upon a time in Italy, the papacy controlled kings and kingdoms. Blood & Beauty takes a historical fiction approach to one of the most powerful families in Italian history - the Borgias.

What I Thought: This one has been on my TBR for literally years. I'm always a little ashamed when books stay on the list so long. I mean, granted, the list is 200+ at this point, but still. I need a better system for working through it. Another day, another time, perhaps.

Today we're talking about the Borgias. No doubt you heard of this family clan back in your high school global history class. They probably got thrown in their with the de Medici family and brief mention of how certain Italian families had a whole lot of powerful back in the day. If you dug a little deeper, maybe took A.P. European History like I did (and loved! Easily one of my favorite classes in high school. Thanks, Mr. Cave!), then maybe you heard a little more. How Papa Borgia landed himself on the papal throne and used his position to pull the rest of his family up with him. The fact that popes are supposed to be celibate and not have children to spoil with a flood of nepotism? Well, they were not too concerned about that back then. Morality was no requirement to lead the Church. As is made abundantly clear in the book.

I mean, this people were seriously the worst. Lucrezia comes across as fairly innocent and swept up in the actions of her father and brothers, but I think she had plenty of her own flaws as well. It all makes for a fascinating story.

Throughout the whole book, I just kept thinking how sad it was that the message of Christ was represented by such popes for so many years. Particularly there in the centuries just before the Reformation, the Church was such a corrupt mess. Not that Catholics and Protestants alike don't have their own issues now - we all certainly do. But it's especially discomforting to read about a pope committing heinous and immoral acts and having so little remorse. Anything can be justified away. For most of these characters, their faith was nominal at best, a vehicle of power and opportunity at worst.

Dunant had a great note at the end of the book explaining her attempts to remain as true as possible to history. Of course, so much intrigue swirled around the Borgias, even in their own time, that it can be difficult to discern exactly what happened. Yet, Dunant has done a commendable work in translating the sketchy history into a very logical story. This is certainly one of the better historical fiction pieces I have read. Often, I find the genre to take too many liberties or to be written poorly. While liberties have certainly been taken, the end result is true to the outlines of history and entertaining in the details which color it in.

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Doubtful, but I plan to pick up the sequel when it comes out.

A Reduced Review: Drama and intrigue shine their brightest in this fictional retelling of the real-life, power-hungry Borgia family.

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