This was only my second Mario Puzo, my first being the Godfather (the mother of all mafia books!). I was concerned that it would not compare, but I was pleasantly surprised. What an epic!
Puzo demonstrates in The Family the origins of the Mafia and tells the story of Cardinal Rogrigo Borgia, who later became Pope Alexander VI, and his famous, or rather infamous family. How much of the story is historical fact and how much is fiction, I couldn't comment. However, Puzo had a love Renaissance Italy and the Borgias, so no doubt a significant amount of research went into the book. The book contains all the elements of a Mafia saga - a ruthless, power hungry Don, instilling in his children the importance and the ultimate preservation of the "Family" over everything. Parallels can be drawn with New York - the 5 Papal states all being controlled by different Families. This novel tells the story of Pope Alexander's ruthless quest to unite the Papal states, at any cost.
We've all heard the names...Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, the Medici, the Orsini, Lucrezia Borgia...but I wasn't aware that they were all linked in this rich, fantastic period of history. This book has made me want to learn more about Italy and the renaissance period. The portrayal of Lucrezia is somewhat sympathetic and in contrast to the legend surrounding her, unless her reputation as a heartless murderess came from later in her life, or if indeed it is more legend than anything. She was also reported to have committed incest with both her brother and father. In the Family, it is just with her brother. Again, you wonder whether this is due to a fondness for her rather than historical accuracy.
Despite this, I would highly recommend this book. Its a richly detailed work from a man clearly in love with his subject matter. It gives interesting insights into the politics in Italy at that time and, whether true or not, is a great mafia story!