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The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427-1527 Hardcover – April 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061563080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061563089
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author of Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France (2005) provides a collective biography recounting the exploits of eight women whose actions and experiences often rocked the Italian Renaissance world. Most of the familiar dynastic ?houses—Borgia, Medici, Este, Aragona, Gonzaga, Rovere, and Sforza—are represented by their cleverest and most cunning and courageous female members. By serving up these brief biographical sketches, Frieda not only illuminates the significant political, economic, and military power-roles these women played within their families but also untangles, a bit, the complicated city-state system that characterized a fifteenth-century Italy fraught with territorial and familial jealousies, rivalries, and intrigue. By shining the spotlight on these women, she presents Renaissance history in a fresh, new light. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

“…scholarly yet very human story of some talented women who held surprising sway in the incredible clutter of city-states that composed Renaissance Italy…Richly researched and deeply complex - at times sufficient to bemuse as much as inform.” (Kirkus)

“An alluring and worthy study of the powerful matriarchs at the helm of Italy’s great Renaissance-era dynasties” (Publishers Weekly)

“Leonie Frieda presents Renaissance history in a fresh, new light…recounting the exploits of eight women whose actions and experiences often rocked the Italian Renaissance world.” (Booklist)

“…fast-paced, vivid book…Frieda’s lively, intimate descriptions are exciting and informative. Any reader interested in the Renaissance will find something to enjoy here…” (Library Journal)

“A fresh look at eight fascinating women and their far-reaching impact…Their stories take readers through the lifespan of the Renaissance from an eye-opening new perspective in the compulsively readable, intellectually rigorous account of an extraordinary century.” (Examiner.com)

“Spirited…action-packed…full of bright, brash women…the contessas of Venice, Naples, Florence and Rome were more than happy to liquidate their rivals, command armies and do whatever it took to keep power firmly in their silk-gloved grasp.” (Daily Mail (London))

“A torrent of poisoned daggers, ruthless politics and sexual intrigue…An interesting introduction to the turbulent back story to all those serenely smiling portraits” (Sunday Times (London))

“A wide-ranging historical narrative about the women and power struggles that dominated Italy in the late 15th and early 16th centuries” (The Spectator)

“Leonie Frieda has created a web of Renaissance women bound together by blood, politics, and a gift for ruling on a level before their time.” (Daily Beast)

“A more inclusive history that points to the talents and strengths of women...Riveting.” (Providence Journal)

Customer Reviews

An insightful view of history from the women's perspective!
Julia G Tombello
I highly recommend this book if you enjoy history, or even if you love a good story.
Nancy Famolari
I feel like the author was trying to accomplish too much in one book.
CCE

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Laura Probst VINE VOICE on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
1.5 stars

Nope, couldn't do it. After reading the enlightening The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer, I can no longer respect another book in which the same old salacious stories about the Borgia family are repeated. Oh, Leonie Frieda qualifies a few of the worst rumors with a "perhaps" or "possibly not", but only in a very reluctant way; all other stories about the Borgias, and Lucrezia specifically, are eagerly related in an almost cackling, "look at how awful these people were" sort of way. She does much the same thing when relating the history of Caterina Sforza. (Frieda repeats the most famous tale about Caterina, in which Caterina supposedly lifts up her skirts and shows her genitals to Orsi rebels while under siege at Ravaldino in response to the rebels threatening her son with death, shouting that she has the capability of making more sons. The origin of this tale is one Galeotto Manfredi, taken from a letter he wrote to Lorenzo de' Medici, but the funny thing is, no other witness to the Ravaldino siege included this vulgar story in their description of the proceedings. Even so, Niccolo Machiavelli decided to repeat this version of events in his Discourses because it suited the general opinion of Caterina's character.) This sort of sordid rumor-mongering only makes the more excellent book about Caterina, The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici by Elizabeth Lev, shine that much brighter.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anne M. Hunter VINE VOICE on February 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author of a well-received biography of Catherine de Medici takes
on the leading women of the Renaissance, the mostly well-educated
daughters and wives of the ruling families of the various
principalities and city-states of fifteenth and early sixteenth
century Italy. She uses these women to open up the history of
Renaissance Italy, and demonstrates how these women fought for power
and wealth against corrupt and extremely dangerous men, like the
Borgia Pope. Frieda assumes a LOT of background, waving around
terms like "Marianism" and "appanage" without a glossary. There is
also mention of many artists, writers, and musicians without any
background provided.

She is variously successful in bringing these women to life. She
spends a lot of time on Isabella, the Duchess of Mantua, whom she
clearly despises, and Lucrezia Borgia, whom she seems to admire.
Caterina Sforza is dealt with sporadically, when she is perhaps the
strongest of the women covered.

This is not an easy read, as she mostly goes chronologically, so that
we're dealing with the women in turn as the chaos of Italy in that
time unfolds. The book is certainly an interesting way to get an
overview of that period from a very different and probably more
realistic perspective than the usual male-dominated one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Avellanet VINE VOICE on January 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Leonie Frieda's latest work has two premises:

1. The eight women covered in this book showcase the best and worst of Italy's Renaissance
2. During the timeline covered, from 1427-1527, the distinction between the female-dominated domestic arena and the male-dominated public arena of politics collapsed.

Unfortunately, neither of these premises are completely fulfilled.

First, the women are not profiled, per se. Instead, the narrative weaves back and forth between them, often pausing for pages to relate historical goings-on (such as the election of new popes, machinations with France or Spain, political negotiations between Italian duchies, wars and battles, and so on). Indeed, for much of this, the women are involved only in the sense that Isabella of Naples was comforted by the King of France as she and her husband, Francesco, were imprisoned. Admittedly, this must have much to do with the paucity of source records associated with what the women were specifically doing on the days they weren't throwing balls or meeting kings or popes, but still - to state that this book focuses on these eight women is stretching things a bit given that at least 35%-40% of the book mentions nothing about any of the women involved.

Second, because the narrative is really tracing the overall history of the power players in that 100-year span of the Italian Renaissance, the women characters come and go amidst a litany of other names and activities to the point where it's difficult to discern who is actually important. This is made difficult by moments when one of the eight women, such as Caterina Sforza, appears for a sentence or two early on in a chapter and then neither she nor any of the other eight women are mentioned the rest of that chapter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Crenwelge VINE VOICE on March 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love good history. I love a great author weaving a great story for me to fall into. I love reading and learning about something I don't really know much about. Since I have spent some time in northern Italy during my time living in Europe, and since I am a history buff, I thought "The Deadly Sisterhood" by Leonie Frieda would fit the bill. It states it is a story of women, power, and intrigue in the Italian Renaissance. I liked the hook. HBO has a series on TV about this time and she is the author of "Catherine de Medici". What is not to like here.

This is superbly researched. I have no doubt in my mind. I don't doubt anything that she lays out in her narrative. But I can't follow it. I spent almost a month attacking this heavy narrative of sometimes legal information. And as someone who is well read on the artistic side (i.e., Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci) and the builders side (i.e., Filippo Brunelleschi) and the political side (Niccolo Machiavelli), I assumed Ms. Frieda would fill a gap in my knowledge of this time period, with emphasis on these handful of very strong women. This is not laid out in a manner I could follow. The book does cover the histories of numerous, important noblewomen during the Italian Renaissance. But that detailed coverage is unorganized to me. There were just too many extra words and minute details which did NOT add to the story. Another reader who is totally seeped in 15th century Italian history (about 10 times more than I), may find it exciting. I did not. I did truthfully complete my self-assigned task to read every word. I think I know less now than I did before I started. Hope that helps someone.
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