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The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia Paperback – August 1, 2017
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“In a literary exploration riven with Shakespearean quantities of murder, lies, deceptions, and treachery, [C. W.] Gortner’s narrative gains veracity with his atmospheric exploration of fashion, architecture, and art on the stage of ‘loud, filthy, and dangerous’ Rome. Gortner has imagined Lucrezia Borgia’s life from a feminist perspective.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A sympathetic portrait of a woman who was treated badly both in life and by the historical record . . . [Gortner] has invested his novel with impressive historical detail that is woven neatly into the threads of the story, and his afterword and references offer excellent insight.”—Historical Novels Review
“C. W. Gortner’s The Vatican Princess is a tale of passion, political intrigue, and poisonous power. Assiduously researched and expertly crafted, this novel takes readers inside the treacherous world of the Borgias—one of history’s most dysfunctional ruling families—and brings to life the sympathetic and freshly imagined character of their leading lady, Lucrezia. This unholy plunge into Rome’s darkest dynasty is wholly engrossing.”—Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of Sisi: Empress on Her Own
“Elegantly written and deeply researched, with a pacy style and a fine eye for contemporary detail . . . The world of Renaissance Italy is vividly brought to life—I’m captivated by this knowledgeable author’s take on the controversial Borgias.”—Alison Weir, New York Times bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen
“A spiderweb of Renaissance intrigue with a cast of legendary characters, The Vatican Princess tells Lucrezia Borgia’s story in her own words. Impressive research, a lush background, and deft characterization of these turbulent times make for a fascinating read.”—Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth I
“The Vatican Princess immerses us in the vibrant, sometimes terrifying world of Renaissance Rome. Here is a marvelously evocative portrait of a young woman caught in a bewildering web of jealousy, family rivalry, vengeance, and papal politics. This is historical fiction at its best, written by a master of the genre.”—Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California and has taught university courses on women of power in the Renaissance. He is the internationally acclaimed author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, and The Last Queen, among other books. Gortner divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala. To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed C.W. Gortner's take on the life of Lucrezia Borgia. We really get to focus on how events shaped and changed her life. And those events were ones that helped make history. While we may never know the reality of what she thought and felt through these years, C.W. Gortner does an amazing job bringing her to life. Lucrezia came back to life in her pages.
The corruption, not only in the Vatican, but in all of the religious and political spheres was astounding. Everything was done for a reason, and many of the people in high positions seem to have bought there way into them with favors or money. I'm amazed that the people seemed to be as OK with it as they were portrayed to be. It seemed to be common knowledge, but everyone looked the other way.
There are so potential trigger moments in the story - but nothing is described in an overly graphic way. I found the portrayal of her family and the intrigues that she was made a pawn of to be cruel - and her ability to rise against them and try to find happiness was incredible.
*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the patriarch Rodrigo (later Pope Alexander VI), is as much the focal point of the Borgia legend as her father or her brothers, the brutish Juan or the seeming Antichrist, Cesare. A legendary seductress who buried more than her fair share of husbands, Lucrezia's story has been hotly debated - is she a sinister femme fatale and willing conspirator in her family's murderous ambition, or was she an innocent pawn used by her family?
Novelist CW Gortner ("The Queen's Vow," "The Tudor Conspiracy," etc.) falls into the latter camp with "The Vatican Princess." Gortner has written several novels about famous women in European history - Catherine de Medici, Isabella of Castile, even Coco Chanel - and he finds perhaps his richest material with Lucrezia Borgia. Gortner has blended his academic and professional passions for both fashion and writing (he holds degrees in both fields as well as years of experience in both industries) to write an entertaining, well-grounded novel that advocates for the Lucrezia-as-Pawn theory.
The novel opens with Lucrezia's father, Rodrigo, becoming the next Pope in a hotly-contested (and well-bribed) election. The Borgias, Spanish interlopers who have risen to the apex of Italian politics - may be reluctantly admired for their ambition, but they have far more enemies than friends. So Pope Alexander must continue his political wheeling and dealing to solidify his family's position. His sons - Juan and Cesare - have their own roles to play, but Lucrezia has pretty much one role to play - to get married to a politically-acceptable family. And Alexander plays Lucrezia as aggressively as he can.
As one can imagine for these political marriages, they are not focused on Lucrezia's happiness, but the novel shows her trying to make the best of it. With horrifying results, as Gortner explores one of the most gruesome myths of the Borgias - that they were incestuous. This is all I'll write about this issue, but it merits specifying that Gortner handles this rather unpleasant subject with intelligence and fortitude - the book is not exploitative, but it's also not for the squeamish.
Overall, this is a very well-written book. Perhaps due to his background in fashion, Gortner has an eye for detail and his world of the Borgias is richly rendered. Thankfully, the novel never bogs down in these details, however - descriptions of clothes, décor, and setting are thorough but economical, and generally contribute to a You Are There perspective without inflating the book beyond its needed scope.
My one quibble with the book is that Gortner assumes that the reader understands the Borgias' role in Italian political life, and much is left unexplained. I've read a few books about the period and consider myself reasonably familiar with the issues on the table with the Borgias, but the period is so frightfully complex that a lot of stuff is just plain missed. While the focus of the story is Lucrezia and not the full political history of the Borgias, the fact remains that she is a pawn in an extremely political game. So it a bit of a bother that the Borgias' political reputation as well as their enemies are left a bit on the threadbare side.
But, all in all, Gortner has written a very enjoyable book about a fascinating character in European history. I strongly recommend this book.
This book traced Lucrezia's development from a semi-innocent teen imbued with love for her father Rodrigo (Pope Alexander VI) and her brother Cesare to a disillusioned woman scarred by tragedy and her family's scheming. One historical point that Gortner emphasized quite well in this novel is that the papacy was not simply a religious position, but also a political one. Lucrezia became a pawn in her family's quest for power, getting caught up in intrigues and enduring an arranged marriage just like any noblewoman in Europe. There were a couple of intense scenes that I found very disturbing and difficult to read; they reflected some of the horrific consequences of the Borgia family's continuous scheming.
Overall, I would recommend this novel especially to anyone interested in the Borgia family for the fresh viewpoint it presented on Lucrezia Borgia. As mentioned above, the subject matter was intense at times, but the development of Lucrezia's character and the excellent historical detail had me turning pages well into the night.
(I also posted this review on Goodreads.)