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Blood & Beauty Paperback – 3 Apr 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • 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 (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,744 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

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 14 May 2014
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paige Turner on 6 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca, London on 2 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By judith on 10 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have only recently discovered how important a turning point the year 1492 was in European history. Of course, Columbus sailed the ocean blue that year, but it was also the year of the reconquista in Spain (after which Spain rewrote it's own history . . . and what did happen to the Visigoths?) and the year of the first Borgia pope (interestingly, also Spanish -- the first non-Italian pope). In this year, Katherine of Aragon was still a young women, her marriage into England still a few years in the future. (see Philippa Gregory's "The Constant Princess" for that story.)

I love Sarah Dunant's books because they enhance my understanding of European history from the point of view of the Italian peninsula . . . well researched and well told. So, if you are trying to piece together a history of "Europe", rather than histories written from the perspectives of present day national boundaries, this book is an important part of the jigsaw puzzle. (It does make me wonder why such a history is underpinned by "women's stories" -- dynastic marriage is not a sufficient explanation, but I suppose it is part of the explanation . . . it was the women who moved from place to place as they were married.)
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Hannahrc on 3 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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