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Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy Paperback – Bargain Price, November 1, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lucrezia Borgia is legendary as the archetypal villainess who carried out the poisoning plotted by her scheming father—Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia—and by her ruthlessly ambitious brother Cesare. The facts of Lucrezia's case are sorted out from fiction by Bradford's humanizing biography, which presents Lucrezia as an intelligent noblewoman, powerless to defy her family's patriarchal order, yet an enlightened ruler in her own right as Duchess of Ferrara. Drawing on extensive archival evidence, Bradford (Disraeli; Princess Grace) explains how Lucrezia's first husband, after their marriage was annulled, vengefully tarnished her name with accusations of incest. Bradford discredits the popular belief that Lucrezia helped Cesare assassinate her second husband. Lucrezia emerges as a political realist who participated with her father and brother in a campaign to marry into the powerful Este family, winning the affections of her new husband, Alfonso d'Este, later Duke of Ferrara. Bradford portrays Lucrezia's extramarital affairs as daring and passionate romances of the heart and describes her cultivated court life and her kindness to artists and poets. Although Bradford's portrait is not immune to a fictionalizing style, especially when ascribing emotional states to its subject, as a project designed to distinguish the historical Lucrezia Borgia from the legend, Bradford's readable biography resoundingly succeeds. Maps and illus. not seen by PW.
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From The New Yorker

Historians who have attempted to rescue Lucrezia Borgia from her legend as a poisoner who slept with both her father, Pope Alexander VI, and her brother, Cesare Borgia, have mostly described her as a pawn. Indeed, before she was twenty-one she was twice married off to men who were disposed of once their political usefulness expired. (The first had to declare himself impotent and grant her a divorce; the second was strangled in his bed.) Bradford sees Lucrezia neither as a helpless victim nor a femme fatale but as a resourceful individual—an able administrator, a genuinely religious woman, and the equal in political skill, if not in brutality, of her notorious male relatives. When the family of her third husband balked at alliance with a woman described as the "greatest whore there ever was in Rome," she used all her craft and charm to win them over—by, among other things, making her pious prospective father-in-law a gift of several nuns.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035954
  • ASIN: B000IOF4EA
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,894,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I would give this book 3.5 stars if possible.
K. Maxwell
There is no narrative, it even goes for pages at a time without even mentioning Lucrezia's name.
Maltacairwen
Just don't waste your time trying to read this book.
S. Marker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Bambulik on November 30, 2004
Verified Purchase
This book was impossible to enjoy. I love history and I expected this to be a pleasant read about the life of Lucrezia Borgia. Instead, from the very beginning, S. Bradford buries a reader in the myriad of Italian (and non-Italian) names of people and cities, and never let that go. Half of the pages are about the Borgia family and only here and there S. Bradford remembered that this book was suppose to concentrate on Lucrezia. In addition, the story jumps from one event to another without any logical connection. Maybe I needed a PhD for this book, I don't know.

No doubt that S. Bradford did an extensive research and has a great deal of knowledge on Borgia family but I think that the book could have been organized and edited much better.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Maltacairwen on November 28, 2005
I hate to repeat the views of others, but this book really is a travesty. I was doing a term paper on Lucrezia and thought this book might help. The cover and the promise of dispelling the myths of Lucrezia lured me in, but I could barely comprehend what Sarah Bradford was trying to say throughout the entire book. The whole thing is just a jumble of names, places, dates, and ...more names. There is no narrative, it even goes for pages at a time without even mentioning Lucrezia's name. This book should be retitled "The Political Background of the Time that Just Happened to Include Lucrezia Borgia, Who Will Not Really Be Discussed".

Such potential!

Pity.
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86 of 102 people found the following review helpful By J.M.K. on December 6, 2004
Where Is The Story??? The book's outline, notes and sources seem to have been published by mistake. I read a lot of historical biographies and a lot of historical fiction. This, by far, is the least enjoyable one I have EVER read.

Sarah Bradford gets so caught up in dispelling the myth of Lucrezia Borgia that she forgets that her readers (me) do not have years experience of researching the Borgia Myth. Her text ( I do not call it a story) jumps in such a jumbled fashion from place to place, person to person, year to year and back again, leaving the reader confused and skimming to find the actual point. I sometimes had to read the same paragraph a couple of times to understand when a person had died/been murdered/been born or married. I think there should have been a more narrative style. I found there to be no actual voice or personality to the writing. If there was, it came across just as stiff and ancient as the endless renaissance letters, records, etc. from which Ms. Bradford draws.

I think I would have to read a few more books about the subject matter to understand what Ms. Bradford was trying to get across. Unfortunately, at this point, I really don't care. I think I deserved to have the myth at least referenced with the "actual" truth in the same book...especially since these myths are mentioned in the inside covers. I gathered from this that the point of the book was to enlighten the reader.

If you are looking for an interesting and informative read...look elsewhere. This book is drudgery.

Or maybe Lucrezia Borgia was just as boring as Sarah Bradford conveys her.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Christiane B. Truelove on August 22, 2005
I cannot agree at all with the reviewers who found this book "boring." Lucrezia's early life, before she was Duchess of Ferrara, was inextricably caught up in the lives of her brother and her father. She didn't keep a diary, and there are few letters from her during the years of her first and second marriages; all observations about her motives and her views came from outside observers. She was a pretty pawn, and she was voiceless. As Duchess of Ferrara, she was minutely observed, and still was not truly free to speak in her own voice. However, her position meant that her letters were preserved, and so we have the correspondence with Pietro Bembo, Federigo Gonzaga, and Alfonso d'Este that show a woman who adroitly played the hand she was dealt. I don't know what other readers were expecting - breathless declarations and confessions in Lucrezia's own words, maybe, but these are declarations that just do not exist. It is necessary to read between the lines. Even the wardrobe descriptions (which I loved, by the way, because I do historical costuming and re-enacting) added to the portrait of Lucrezia.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By S. Marker on April 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ok, I don't normally write reviews, but I really feel I need to warn readers about this book. I am a Ph.D. student who studies Italian Renaissance art. I love history, and I am passionate about the Italian Renaissance, especially the few women whose histories have been recorded. That being said, I found this book to be terribly boring. Great biographies bring the character to life; this book did nothing more than list bland details of the time period. The parts that actually directly involve Lucrezia make up maybe a quarter of the book. If you already know a lot about the Renaissance, don't expect to learn anything new, and definitely don't expect to learn much about Lucrezia Borgia. I'd say it felt like reading a textbook, except I've actually had textbooks that were much more interesting than this. If you want to read a great biography of a Renaissance woman, try "Murder of a Medici Princess" or "The Pope's Daughter" both by Caroline Murphy. I've also heard "Lucrezia Borgia" by Maria Bellonci is an interesting account of the life of Lucrezia. Just don't waste your time trying to read this book.
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