- 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 (150 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Blood & Beauty Paperback – 3 Apr 2014
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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)
Acclaimed novelist of the Italian Renaissance Sarah Dunant now takes on the era's most infamous family: the Borgias.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Pope Alexander VI was most definitely a man of ambition who scaled the slopes towards the papal throne with great determination. His children, most notably those born to him by Vanozza dei Cattanei (Giovanni, Cesar, Lucrezia and Jofre) have come to us as larger than life figures who impacted in their various ways on the whole of Europe throughout their lives. Their legacies and their reputations lasted long after.
Renaissance Italy, and indeed Renaissance Europe, was a hotbed of ambition, war, religious fervour and argument - Savonarola; the Medici; the French wars; the ambitions of Spain. All are shown in this book, but are they really brought to life? This book is a really good historical novel. Where it fails to reach a 5-star rating as a really great historical novel is, in my opinion, that it never really `gets under the skin' of the characters. While we see the narrative of action and activity that flowed around the Borgia family, we never really get to see the internal characters of those Borgias themselves. There is, it seems, to be another book to follow on the story of the Borgias - I will definitely look to read this book, but I'm not sure yet that it will be as good as I would like to think it could be.
I've had a thing for historical fiction since reading Wolf Hall a year or so ago. In fairness, very few of the books I've read since Wolf Hall have reached that high standard (exception being Hilary Mantell's follow-up, Bring Up The Bodies, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell) but verything I've read this past year has been enjoyable at some level. I had high hope for Blood & Beauty but it's fallen well short of my expectations and I just couldn't face spending any more time working my way through this turgid tale just so that I could pat myself on the back for completing it.
I found the story surprisingly boring. I also didn't like the prose style. I felt the author kept telling me what to think (i.e. Rodrigo Borgia is corrupt but a brilliant schemer) rather than showing me events and allowing me to make my own mind up. I didn't feel that the characters matched the hyperbole. They were unanimously unlikable and two dimensional.
I was hoping that Sarah Dunant would become a favourite author of mine, but I doubt I shall ever try one of her books again.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Here is an example of Sarah Dunant's prose in "Blood and Beauty":
"The brother dies, the family mourns and time passes. Read more
It must take a rare degree of bloody mindedness to write a boring book about the Borgias, but Dunant has managed it. Read morePublished 3 months ago by NJL1974
Absolutely captivating, well written and some extraordinary characters to love or hate. Although a novel, historically accurate
with artistic license thrown in. Read more