Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Sins of The House Of Borgia" by Sarah Bower

 * * * *
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402259630
I am always glad for the chance to read a new historical novel about the infamous Borgia clan. For a family that is reviled by history for their poisons,excesses,immorality and greed, there seems to be a dearth of books written about them. Books about the Borgias are certainly nowhere near as popular as the Tudors for instance.

"...I was so young then and confused lust with love as the young do ...."

"Sins Of The House of Borgia" follows the life of young Jewish woman, Esther Safarti. Her story begins in 1492. Young Esther and her Mother escape Toledo and the early years of the Spanish Inquisition by traveling to Rome to join her father (who, for some reason had all but abandoned Esther and her mother in Spain). When they reach the shores of Italy, Esther's mother dies on the beach. that they land on. The tale really begins on the beach that day. As a very fair skinned Jewess, Esther's fathers believes that she can 'pass' as a Christian. In his absence, her father has become an important banker in Rome and works for the rising star of the Catholic Church - Rodrigo Borgia. Rodrigo becomes the Pope Alexander VI and Esther's father arranges for her to become a lady-in-waiting to Rodrigo's illegitimate daughter, Lucrezia - the Duchess of Ferrara. - who will soon be married to her third husband - at twenty-one years of age.  Esther is made to believe that this is what her mother would have wanted her to do. In this position Ether will be better able to attract a husband of good standing. The caveat will be that Esther is forced to convert to Christianity and assume the role of a 'converso'.

As a lady-in-waiting Esther must become another person. Her name is changed - first at Lucrezia's insistence to Donata. Soon afterward, Lucrezia's sadistic brother, Cesare, dubs her Violante. Unable to resist his allure, the newly re-named Violante surrenders herself to the violent, immoral charms of Cesare and, ultimately bears him a son. Cesare is a power hungry man who cares little for Violante and abandons (his real love lies elsewhere) her and his family in search of lands to conquer and power to wield. Through the course of of the book (the years of her service to the Borgia family from 1492 to 1507) and at the time of Cesare's death, the truth to the 'secret' of the Borgia sin unfolds.  Esther, Donata,Violante realizes that she has been nothing more than a puppet - that her entire life in their household has been one lie after another.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the Epilogue of this book. It's short but exceptional and continues the story of Esther's life after she leaves Italy. The Epilogue in itself could well become another story - and it would be a fascinating one at that.  I think I won;t say more about this part of the book because it really is the heart of the character - and you should read it for yourself!

This is a well crafted book that gives the true flavor of this hedonistic family. The politics, rivalries, sadism, and excesses of the Italian Renaissance are well described and the plot lines moves very smoothly. There a multitude of well fleshed out characters and, for this reason, it's a good book to savor more slowly than same. Ms. Bower has a real talent and I will be looking out for her next work. Ms. Bower has previously written short stories and was the UK editor of Historical Novels Review before turning her talents to writing this book.

this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received.

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