The big, bad Borgia dynasty undergoes modern reconsideration in the best-selling British author’s epic new biofiction.
Eclipsing her earlier period novels in scope, Dunant’s (Sacred Hearts, 2009, etc.) latest is an impressively confident, capable sweep through the corrupt politics and serpentine relationships of a legendary family. Marshaling a mass of material, including contemporary research, Dunant delivers a colorful, sensual and characteristically atmospheric account of Rodrigo Borgia’s ascent to the papacy as Alexander VI in 1492 and his subsequent tireless efforts to build a power base through the strategic use of his four children. Cesare is the sly, shrewd son, a match for his father in guile but with a colder heart, who moves ruthlessly from cardinal to soldier as politics and advancement dictate. Beloved daughter Lucrezia makes one strategic marriage after another while nursing a powerful attachment to Cesare. Two more sons play similarly useful roles, forging alliances. The politics are complicated, but Dunant’s clear account is balanced by oddly affectionate character portraits informed by her interest in the psychology of these larger-than-life figures. Closing at a bittersweet moment that fuses family fortunes and realpolitik, the author promises a second volume.
Dunant’s biggest and best work to date, this intelligently readable account of formative events and monster players has Hilary Mantel–era quality best-seller stamped all over it.