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Blood & Beauty [Paperback]

Sarah Dunant
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
RRP: £6.66
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Book Description

3 April 2014

By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched only by its brutality and corruption. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy, he is defined not just by his wealth, charisma and power, but by his blood: a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If he is to succeed, he must use his Machiavellian son and innocent daughter.

Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty breathes life into the astonishing family of Alexander VI and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex, and relentless.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (3 April 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 184408745X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844087457
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A wonderful novel - taking you deep into the world of Renaissance passion and the Renaissance papacy. Part of me was happily lost in the time travel, part of me repeatedly struck by how vividly ancient Rome met modern Rome, and how the city of history came to life. (Mary Beard)

Blood & Beauty is a fascinating read full of vivid detail and human pathos. Dunant opens a window into the extraordinary machinations and skullduggery of the Borgias and provides us with a richness of description that beautifully locates them within their own time. (Amanda Foreman)

What a marvellous feast of vices and desires Sarah Dunant gives us in Blood & Beauty - lust and ambition, passion and power, destiny born and bought. The Borgias are arguably the most intriguing and ruthless family in all of history, and Dunant brings them ravishingly, bristlingly to life. Absolutely convincing on every page. I was enthralled. (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)

An ambitious, thrilling read from a novelist at the height of her powers. The Borgias leap from the page . . . the book offers total immersion in an alien Rome (The Times)

Book Description

Acclaimed novelist of the Italian Renaissance Sarah Dunant now takes on the era's most infamous family: the Borgias.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully engaging re-telling of the Borgia family story from Roderigo's election as Pope Alexander VI in 1492 to Lucrezia's third marriage into the d'Este family in 1502. Dunant resists just churning out the usual scurrilous stories of incest, poisoning, murder and decadence, and instead offers a more complex tale of complicated politics and characters.

The narrative is marked by a sly wit: `the Pope sits in darkness in his bedchamber. Recently his legs have been causing him trouble. Perhaps he is not used to spending so much time on his knees', and is clear-sighted about the characters: `To be lauded as a hero for a battle that everyone knows you didn't win could be a burden as much as a triumph. Juan, however, manages to remain oblivious'.

At the book's heart is Roderigo (pope, devoted family man, easily moved to tears yet ruthless when necessary) and the wonderfully menacing and yet dangerously charismatic Cesare who steals every scene in which he appears. Dunant manages his portrait sensitively and gives him a psychological acuity frequently missing from the more sensationalist literature: her treatment of the capture of Caterina Sforza, for example, is masterly.

Dunant's previous Renaissance books haven't really worked for me but I loved this. It's one of those rare books that I wanted to read slowly to savour the pleasure of every page - and I can't wait for the second volume in the story. This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far - highly recommended.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family matters 3 May 2013
From the moment the 65 year old Rodrigo Borgia shouts `I am Pope' and the next page reveals his teenage daughter Lucrezia sleeping next to his young mistress Guilia, the pace never slackens in this operatic unfolding of the great dysfunctional dynasty in Renaissance Europe.

I had a rather clouded view of the Borgias as the ultimate cruel and corrupted family, especially of the daughter Lucrezia, who has gathered a reputation over time as the face of depravity. But this book plunged me into the heart of a family of talented, seductive individuals consistently conflicted between love and loyalty.

I have loved Sarah Dunant's Renaissance novels for the way in which she chooses to show that turbulent period from a woman's perspective: she now moves from brilliantly researched fiction to a fictional perspective on these larger than life historical figures who 500 years have been centre-stage for gossip, spin and misrepresentation.

The Borgias were of course ruthless and cruel but the book does the brilliant job of giving context and human dimensions to the outsider family who set out to conquer Europe. Starting with the master politician, Rodrigo, who seizes the power offered by the papacy to further his dynasty, the book shows how the four children play their part in his vision of a Borgia empire. They shape-shift, they rewrite history and they transgress - with this goal in mind. But what becomes clear is how the complex ties of emotion between the different members of the family are drawn ever deeper as expediency takes precedent over personal feeling.

The blood of the title is the ambition of the family as well as blood carelessly spilt: the beauty is the seductive charm of the brothers and the daughter and sister who bow to their father's political will.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting! 6 May 2013
Get ready to clear your calendars and cancel your weekend plans because i could not put this book down! It's clearly all based on solid fact but she made the characters so alive and real it was like watching a movie in history class. I really appreciated the way in which the family interacted with each other because they seemed like real people and this made me actually care about what they did and what happened to them. I didn't know much about the complexities of the politics before reading this book and so her ability to clearly lay out the political landscape/drama made it all the more compelling.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating 2 May 2013
Be prepared - this will take over your life for several days. It's like watching a series of Renaissance frescos come to life and movement. Every scene is written with such beautiful attention to detail - to colours and textures and smells - but is also devoted to understanding the members of this extraordinary family on their own terms, not as bill boards for contemporary standards of morality. Dunant allows us to make up our own minds. She's a time-traveller with a transgressive curiosity: she's drawn to the doors with the No Entry signs so you end up seeing into the places no one has really dared to look before: bedrooms, kitchens, gardens as well as the corridors of power. The pacing is fast but the counterpointed reflective scenes are often moving and tender, so that you see the machinations of power and then the moments of vulnerability. A fascinating read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good read from Sarah Dunant 3 July 2013
By K8
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read this on holiday in Italy, so it felt right from the outset. Good balance between human intrigue and politics. I didn't find the politics heavy going which is a tribute to the writing style, I think. Handy family tree and map.

Is it a true history? I'm not qualified to judge, but I trust the author's research and understand it is one interpretation of events. As a fictionalised account, it makes a satisfying read and that's what I was after.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I have not found this quite as riveting as her previous novels.
Published 12 hours ago by WAH
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Havent read it yet but I read another by Dunant and was spellbound
Published 3 days ago by M. A. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very interesting & totally different frojm the T.V. series. This was much more believeable
Published 15 days ago by Layla Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood and Beauty
A complelling story of this infamous famiiy, who in the main, considering the times they lived though, weren't all that bad, except for Cesare; he was worse!
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars The story of the Borgias and their times was fascinating ...
The story of the Borgias and their times was fascinating but I felt that sex and melodrama had been added to make it 'accessible'. The awful title is a giveaway!
Published 1 month ago by J. Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great historical drama. educating and entertaining at once.
looking forward to second in the trilogy.
Published 1 month ago by DR
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood and Beauty
This is an excellent story about the Borgias. At first I was a bit confused with all the characters and the underlying politics, but Dunant writes with such an easy, flowing style... Read more
Published 2 months ago by jazzy2
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Another great book from this author.
Published 2 months ago by Mr. Graham L. Vine
5.0 out of 5 stars Borgia Beauty
Miss the TV series so bought this. A Great read about the Borgias. Can't wait for the 2nd book. Recommended
Published 2 months ago by Ed
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a proper novel of the Borgias
The best book on the Borgias out there. Firmly rooted in the most plausible, instead of the most exaggerated as usually, it reshapes the way you view this infamous family, turning... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Arissa
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