By SARAH DUNANT
Published by Hachette New Zealand, $36.99 RRP, 1 May 2013
Stripping away the myths that surround the Borgias, BLOOD & BEAUTY is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex and relentless.
In 2003 Sarah Dunant published the first novel of her 'literary triptych' set in Renaissance Italy – The Birth of Venus. The novel was wildly successful and established her as one of the best historical fiction writers of the day. This was followed by In the Company of the Courtesan in 2006 and finally in 2010 Sacred Hearts. In these three separate but connected novels Dunant adroitly explores the few options available to the young noble women of Renaissance Italy – that of wife, whore or nun. Drawing on her background as a Silver Dagger winning crime novelist, Cambridge history graduate, feminist, cultural commentator, political observer, writer and media personality – Dunant suffused the art, sex and power play of the Renaissance era with both sumptuous atmosphere and shocking reality.
Now she approaches Rome's most dangerous and notorious family, the Borgia's.
Blood & Beauty is a majestic novel which sets out to capture the scope, detail, depth, colour and complexity of this utterly fascinating family living in an extraordinary time.
A powerhouse of the Italian Renaissance, the very name Borgia epitomised the ruthless behaviour and sexual corruption of Rome and it's Church. Could there be a single family in history more dazzling, dangerous and notorious?
When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: he is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgia's are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women and power must use papacy and family to succeed.
His eldest son Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest – though increasingly unstable – weapon. Later immortalised in Machiavelli's The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle.
His daughter Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages: from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player and ultimately a woman whose very name is a byword for poison, incest and intrigue.
But how much of the history about this remarkable family is actually true, and how much is distorted, filtered through the age old mechanisms of political spin, propaganda and gossip?
What if the truth, the real history, is even more challenging?
A pacy, historical narrative bursting with food for the imagination – BLOOD & BEAUTY confirms Dunant's genius in creating meticulously researched Italian historical novels.
About the Author
Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestsellers THE BIRTH OF VENUS, IN THE COMPANY OF A COURTESAN and SACRET HEARTS, a Renaissance trilogy bringing voice to the lives of three different women in three different historical contexts. Sarah Dunant's tireless research has resulted in vivid reconstructions of women's secret histories in the characters of a Florentine Noblewoman, a Venetian Courtesan and the Sisters of Santa Caterina.
A well-known and respected UK based cultural commentator – for many years Sarah presented The Late Show – a live TV arts show, was co-host of the televised coverage of the Booker Prize and hosted Nightwaves on BBC Radio 3. Her two novels, TRANSGRESSIONS (2002) and MAPPING THE EDGE (2005), were the subject of acclaim in the 90's and previous to that she penned six successful issues based crime novels for which she won two Silver Daggers. Sarah has two daughters, and divides her time between London and Florence.