Medici fans will expand their awareness of the family’s broad reach, and Renaissance students will discover Machiavelli’s...

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THE BLACK PRINCE OF FLORENCE

THE SPECTACULAR LIFE AND TREACHEROUS WORLD OF ALESSANDRO DE' MEDICI

An exploration of the life of a lesser-known Medici: Alessandro (1510-1537).

Fletcher (History and Heritage/Swansea Univ.; Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome: The Rise of the Resident Ambassador, 2015, etc.) displays an excellent comprehension of the Medici family and Renaissance political maneuvering. The connections between ruling and royal families, intermarriages, feuds, and assassinations can boggle the mind, but she carefully separates friends from enemies (often, one became the other). Alessandro’s appointment as Duke of Florence was thanks in great part to his uncle Pope Clement VII and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Alessandro and his cousin Ippolito were both illegitimate, but Alessandro was always referred to as “Moor,” and Ippolito was favored. Alessandro's mother was a dark-skinned maid, and while he was also dark-skinned, in 16th-century Italy, few knew of his ethnicity, and racism was not as pronounced as now. Pope Leo X, also an uncle, favored his nephews, educating them and slating Ippolito to take over power in Florence. For unknown reasons—although Ippolito’s expulsion from Rome for vandalism might play a part—Leo switched his support to Alessandro, creating an enemy of Ippolito. Alessandro was especially gifted in the stately arts and ensured the power of his family for longer than would have been possible without him. His peacemaking at the Treaty of Barcelona guaranteed the Medici’s power in Florence, and he also secured the marriage of Catherine de’ Medici to the French king. Alessandro may have been tyrannical and savage, but then again, maybe not. The author mostly leaves readers to sort it out, carefully noting his subject’s politics and accomplishments during his short six-year reign.

Medici fans will expand their awareness of the family’s broad reach, and Renaissance students will discover Machiavelli’s models for The Prince.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-061272-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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