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3.6 out of 5 stars21
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 5 February 2013
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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on 21 November 2012
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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on 16 April 2014
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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on 10 April 2016
I cannot but agree with all those who complained about this book .I bought it ages ago and cose to take it to Italy on a recent trip.The book had hardly any signs of being proof read.it was extremely irritating to read as a consequence not helped by what I can only describe as the "purple prose " style of the writer. The writer I think implied it was completed in some haste and if so it shows. She has done a lot of work on this book including primary sources and yet she has spoiled all this by her bodice -ripping language and absurd character descriptions. Out of this dreadful mess ,one of the worst history books I have ever had to read the lives of Caterina Sforza ,Lucretia Borgia ,the d'Estes sisters and others peek out with a marvellous story to tell .Unfortunately this story is difficult to discern..
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on 20 November 2012
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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on 25 February 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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on 27 December 2012
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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on 23 November 2012
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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on 29 September 2015
A great read. I loved the detailed background of these fantastic women. How they were able to manipulate and change outcomes of battles, sieges etc. and to be brilliant diplomats and govenors of great cities and vast estates.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 December 2012
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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