The Borgia’s gained popularity a while backs with the highly sensationalized TV series. I haven’t watched the TV series, nor do I think that I will, (I learned my lesson with the Tudors). As a work of historical fiction, Dunant’s book provides readers with an interesting view of the infamous Italian family.
My knowledge of this time period is a little bit shaky. Having attended a Catholic high school the Papacy of the Borgias is something that was often swept under the rug and ignored. After doing a bit of research on the family, I’m not going to lie, I can see where Martin Luther was coming from with his 95 Theses. The Borgias were a modern day Mafioso living in Renaissance Italy. While the family was a dynasty, Dunant’s book focuses on Rodrigo’s reign as Pope (Pope Alexander VI) and the lives of his four children. The most shocking thing about the lives of the Borgias is that, at the time, a Pope having children, especially with multiple women, was not seen as scandalous. The historical record shows that people knew that the Pope had children and accepted this fact. It was only after the Reformation that the Pope’s vows of celibacy were enforced.
At the time, being the Pope was essentially the most powerful position in Europe. Dunant details the escapades of Rodrigo in trying to exercise absolute control through strategic alliances arranged by marriage. This was especially important since Rodrigo was a Spanish Pope in an Italian Papacy. Dunant does a good job in her characterization of Rodrigo, but she displays complete mastery with Rodrigo’s daughter, Lucrezia Borgia. At the beginning of the book Lucrezia is a young teenager excited at the prospect of her upcoming marriage to the Lord of Pesaro. As the book progresses and Lucrezia finds herself as a pawn in her father’s plans, she hardens and becomes and intelligent woman in her own right. By the end of the book she is a fiercely independent woman working to ensure the best for her own children. It is Lucrezia’s transformation that made this book a joy to read.