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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original footballers' wives - but with brains and a genuine sense of style
I loved Leona Frieda's Catherine De Medici biography so I was duly looking forward to this. The Deadly Sisterhood is a composite biography so doesn't have the same focus as Catherine, but many of the aspects which made the author's first book enjoyable are apparent in this follow-up. There is the interest in character, as well as history, and the book is conscious of...
Published on 21 Nov 2012 by MISS SHERIDAN A SMITH

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Barely proof read
When I see a relatively expensive book from a reputable publisher I expect it to be readable at the very least. This book was littered with mistakes that should have been picked up by proof reading-names changed mid page (p85 Ippolita becomes Isabella by the bottom of the page), words left out(p95 "Riario, however, refused to consent to a truce between the papacy and the...
Published 22 months ago by KAW


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Barely proof read, 5 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
When I see a relatively expensive book from a reputable publisher I expect it to be readable at the very least. This book was littered with mistakes that should have been picked up by proof reading-names changed mid page (p85 Ippolita becomes Isabella by the bottom of the page), words left out(p95 "Riario, however, refused to consent to a truce between the papacy and the and had the messenger...") and some sentences just did not make sense.(p38 "One bridegroom described the wife of Cosimo's wedding present as"insignificant...")
If a reader cannot trust the text how can they trust the content?
The author often makes sweeping statements about personalities, they are "somewhat inane" "a chancer(sic) and a scoundrel" even a nincompoop, without really explaining why she has made these assessments. She also seems to think that being overweight is shorthand for being unpleasant and even ugly. In the picture credits she points out Bona of Savoy's "abundant girth" and next to the picture of Bona's husband's mistress we are told he preferred her "And who could blame him?" One of the author's main reasons for disliking Isabella d'Este appears to be her size, when contemporary writers praise her appearance we are told it is because they are distracted by her "gem-encrusted hide" and then we are invited to laugh at the thought of buildings collapsing under her because "she was now quite obese".
Some of the women in this book do have remarkable stories( although the women often disappear completely while we catch up on what their husbands and brothers were up to)it is a pity that this book does not do them justice.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original footballers' wives - but with brains and a genuine sense of style, 21 Nov 2012
This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
I loved Leona Frieda's Catherine De Medici biography so I was duly looking forward to this. The Deadly Sisterhood is a composite biography so doesn't have the same focus as Catherine, but many of the aspects which made the author's first book enjoyable are apparent in this follow-up. There is the interest in character, as well as history, and the book is conscious of telling a story (albeit with the cast of characters on show means the narrative can get complicated at times). Some of the women like Caterina Sforza and Lucrezia Borgia are stronger than others, but each life has its distinctiveness and colour. One finds oneself both attracted to and appalled by the women and the age. The Deadly Sisterhood were the original footballers' wives - but with brains and a genuine sense of style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, 25 Feb 2014
Although from the start the book was muddled and badly written, I persisted because the content was of interest to me. However, it became impossible to tolerate the appallingly judgmental descriptions of people ('a gutless invertebrate' for one example) and the repetitious condemning of characters as stupid or fat or cowardly - all equally reprehensible, apparently. I could not trust the author to understand the difference between fact and fiction. I abandoned the book in a cafe, not sure whether I hoped someone else might enjoy it or might throw it away. What a waste of money and time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars proofing is non existent, 13 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
Like other reviewers I cannot believe that this book was proof read. In short there are parts that can only be described as a mess which really is disappointing as it completely spoils this lovely book for the reader. There is no doubt that if it had been properly checked I would give this 5 stars. Very disappointing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a mess,, 27 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
I was really looking forward to this but found it to be almost unreadable.
It was so full of facts, and so unclear as to who the characters were
that I was always going to the Index and the Family Trees, which were
not complete.
Seriously in need of a good editor, it was full of reptitions, obvious mistakes,
and Im sorry to say, Deadly Boring, and Overwritten. The Time Lines
were all over the place.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written with both elegance and humour., 20 Nov 2012
This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
The Deadly Sisterhood is written with both elegance and flashes of humour. The women in the Renaissance that Leonie Frieda discusses serve as both an inspiration and warning from History. Power can corrupt women as much as men. The era is full of intrigue, tyrants, lavish courts, marriages and affairs. The book will be of particular interest to those interested in the period and the Borgias and the Medicis but Leonie Frieda's book deserves a wider appeal. As well as being about History, the Deadly Sisterhood is a lesson in human nature and politics that subtly resonates - and at the same time is interestingly alien - to power politics today and women who pull strings behind their husbands' backs. Recommend you buy book rather than ebook, as print copy has some stunning colour plates.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sisters doing it for themselves,, 23 Nov 2012
This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
In some ways the Deadly Sisterhood confirms many of the truisms about the Renaissance, in regards to politic Princes and Popes, the decadence of the courts, the great art and the obsession with power and wealth. At other times however Leonie Frieda's books highlights the subtlties and contradictions of the age; how the powerful princes could be ruled by the women behind them, how the supposedly enlightened were often sadistic and cruel and how weak women could become strong and conversely how strong women could fall from grace. It is also clear that there was little love loss and sorority between the sisterhood of the period.
This book jumps around quite a bit and follows a number of characters so you need to concentrate when reading it. The author is not afraid to be critical of her subjects, at the same time she clearly sympathises and admires some of her heroines and anti-heroines.
Well written and well researched.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Complicated period of history., 16 April 2014
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I so enjoyed Leonie Frieda's first book Catharine De Medici, the story flowed, that I had been watching to see if she would write a second book. Maybe I found the first one such an easy read because I had read about Catharine before. My knowledge of Italien history being limited most of the women in this book were completely new to me. It was interesting but hard work. I think rereading it, at a later date, would be a good idea and I would probably get more enjoyment from it. Please don't be put off reading it as you will find out how society worked during the Italian Renaissance and the place of women in society.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic source material and gorgeous illustrations., 3 Dec 2012
By 
EleanorB - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
The Deadly Sisterhood covers the lives of eight women across a century of Italian life at a time when Vatican power politics drove family alliances, and many marriages were contracted with regard only to the shifting tides of male dominated, and highly tribal, factions as they jostled for riches and advancement.

As Frieda herself says, several of these women could justify an individual biography, such is the quality of the source material and the vivid scope of their lives. The illustrations contained in the book are absolutely stunning and enhance the narrative enormously. These apparently languid Renaissance beauties clearly had to have nerves of steel in order to cope with being uprooted at young ages and married for strategic reasons to men that they might well have preferred to avoid if choice had been granted. To thrive and survive in a violent and often vicious society, riven with shifting loyalties, to protect their numerous offspring and often actively defend their homes and domains from attack, took physical courage and intelligence of a high level, plus as in the case of Catherine Sforza, a good military brain. She has given these women a voice and has certainly not been overly flattering in her reading of their characters, giving us, for example, a less than glowing account of that greedy and acquisitive shopaholic - Isabella d'Este. She has also, usefully, clarified some of the wilder misinterpretations over the character and career of Lucrezia Borgia, illegitimate daughter of a pope who in time became the respected Duchess of Ferrara. There is also a strong section on the sacking of Rome by invading French troops, which became a tsunami of rape and pillage, and showed clearly that flowery diplomatic language and lavish court entertainments merely masked double dealing and treachery.

Frieda's earlier work on Catherine de Medici was obviously a more detailed and focussed work and I enjoyed it enormously. However, this is where my criticism of "Sisterhood" comes into play: the quality of the writing is simply not up there with her earlier work. There are far too many grammatical errors, with clumsy, rambling sentences and spelling mistakes too numerous to mention. The endless misuse of 'that' instead of 'which' along with sloppy and inappropriate overuse of colons and semi-colons in place of proper sentence and paragraph structuring, is just annoying and spoils the flow of the work. Sadly, the author has been let down by some seriously poor editing and the proof reading is frankly substandard. All these faults could have been easily addressed by a sharp editor and this would have been a far, far better book as a result.

This being the case, it is not nearly as good a book at it should have been and misses out on the five stars that I would have wished to award.

That said, it remains a vivid evocation of a dynamic and fascinating period of European history.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Few Too Many Women, 29 Mar 2013
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Deadly Sisterhood: A story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance (Hardcover)
"The Deadly Sisterhood," an account of eight outstanding women who lived, and were considered important, during the Italian Renaissance, the 15th and 16th centuries, comes to us from Leonie Frieda, bestselling biographer of Catherine de Medici, Catherine de Medici: A Biography. The women she treats, Lucrezia Turnabuoni, Clarice Orsini, Beatrice d'Este, Isabella d'Este, Caterina Sforza, Giulia Farnese, Isabella d'Aragona, and Lucrezia Borgia, lived lives that varied from good fortune to poverty, great power to powerlessness, but always served to illustrate the spectacle, opportunity, and, yet, depravity of Italy's Renaissance.

These women were sisters, mothers and mistresses of popes; sisters, mothers, wives and mistresses of princes. They were related by birth, whether legitimate or not - the Italian Renaissance, with its high infant death rate, famously didn't much differentiate-- marriage or friendship. All ruled capably while their men were not available, some of them quite handily picking up the sword to defend themselves and their children. Whatever they were, they were not bystanders to the monumental events of their days. The constant infighting of popes against Italy's great city states: Venice, Milan, Florence, and Naples; the battles against the invading Turks, Moslems all; Spain, France, and later the Holy Roman Empire. These women were administrators, politicians, diplomats. It is Frieda's thesis that the chaos of the times in which they lived enabled them to participate so powerfully. Their daughters, she thinks, who lived in somewhat calmer times, did not have the same privileges, but were confined to scheming in their boudoirs.

Frieda follows recent trends in emphasizing Caterina Sforza, a great warrior woman whom history had long ignored. But, thankfully, I've recently read, liked and reviewed here Tigress of Forli: The Life of Caterina Sforza. And The Borgias: The Hidden History, both of which accredit her with her powerful deeds. We can never have too many feminine heroes.

The author also follows recent trends in painting the Borgias, see THE BORGIAS, less black than they have been for centuries. Much of the calumny thrown at them has been found to be baseless. However, the writer breaks with the recent BORGIAS in considering that the Borgia pope Alexander VI did take Giulia Farnese as his mistress, and did father Lucrezia Borgia. G. J. Meyer, author of THE BORGIAS, brings some pretty strong proof to his argument that neither of these ancient slurs on this able pope are true.

I part company, however, with Frieda on her treatment of Isabella D'Este, a woman who has left me awestruck since I first learned of her existence. She was the ablest of administrators, negotiators and diplomats; a famous beauty and admired fashion leader throughout the known world on top of that, noted for her collections of art, antiquities and books. Take part in the world she lived in? She was smart enough, and connected enough, to demand and get a visit from Christopher Columbus in 1492, to explain his New World findings to her. She got cardinals' hats for a brother-in-law and a son. She participated in the epochal Diet of Worms, in which the Catholic Church attempted to smooth its differences with Martin Luther's newly-arisen Protestantism. And she made a joke of its name in her letters: apparently the Diet of Worms sounds like a joke in several languages. She behaved heroically during the brutal 1527 Sack of Rome by the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, giving shelter to nearly 2000 women and children in her rented villa, and then renting ships to get the refugees out of there.

Frieda accuses her of being greedy in pursuit of her collections. Of having made a profit on the saving of those Roman women and children. Of having been a beauty in her youth, but losing her looks. But there is a sketch of Isabella D'Este by Leonardo Da Vinci in Paris's famous Louvre Museum, and the outlines are marked by dozens of tiny pinpricks, so that his studio hands could easily make copies of the picture to meet the worldwide demand. This picture was his bestseller. Frieda also accuses Isabella of not really understanding fashion, of being but a provincial in her dress.

And the author frequently accuses Isabella of having gotten fat in her older years. Well now, Isabella lived into her sixties, a rare old age then, as so many women died in childbirth. And the body does just slow down at 35. And Isabella's husband, despite being a fine, highly-paid soldier, was not particularly attractive. Though the author agrees that Lucrecia Borgia, whom she admits, whether or not that ancient figure's life has been decided to be not as evil as was once thought, was round-heeled as long as possible, had an affair with him. But back to Isabella. So she was old, cast aside and prevented from participation in the affairs of the day by her son, who was notably less able than she was. No sex, drugs, or rock and roll, what was a girl to do? Eat, of course, might as well. On which my theory has always been that, as long as you don't have to go to Ahmed the tentmaker for your clothes, nor pay in drachma, who cares. Only stick Frieda doesn't use to beat the older Isabella? There was a gossip at court constantly criticizing the woman in his letters. The duchess's teeth were blackened, caused by her chewing her favorite nuts. How'd the author miss that?

According to her potted bio, Frieda is a Swedish-born former model, translator, and writer, who now lives and works in the United Kingdom. She was educated in the UK, France and Germany, and speaks five languages. Her first book, CATHERINE DE' MEDICI, was a bestseller upon publication in the United Kingdom in 2004 and the United States in 2005.

This book does offer an interesting level of detail: you're going to love the recipe for the shampoo used by all these famous Italian blondes. And, thank goodness, it has maps, timelines, family trees, and, happily for me, pictures of its leading actors. But all this is not enough, unfortunately. It is confusing and hard to follow, too many names of people and dates of battle. Even I, who studied Renaissance History in the great university I attended, felt battered and bruised by everything being thrown at me, and I so much wanted to love the book. Frieda just bit off more than she could chew. The eight women are a few too many.
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