Book Review: In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

namefamily Thrilling exploration of the House of Borgia’s doomed years

About the Book

Description (courtesy of Goodreads): `It is better to be feared than loved’ – Niccolo Machiavelli. It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womaniser and master of political corruption is now on the Papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged twenty-two, already thrice married and a pawn in her father’s plans, is discovering her own power. And then there is Cesare Borgia: brilliant, ruthless and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with the diplomat Machiavelli which offers a master class on the dark arts of power and politics. What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince.  But while the pope rails against old age and his son’s increasing maverick behaviour it is Lucrezia who will become the Borgia survivor: taking on her enemies and creating her own place in history.

Book Facts

  • Format: Hardcover
  • No. of pages: 480
  • Publication date: 2nd March 2017
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

My Review (4 out of 5)

This is the second in Sarah Dunant’s series of book about the Borgias but it works perfectly well as a standalone novel. However, on the strength of this, I will definitely be adding the earlier one, Blood & Beauty, to my TBR pile.

Sarah Dunant injects colour and life into a cast of real life characters who were already pretty colourful.

Rodrigo Borgia, risen to become Pope Alexander VI, despite siring illegitimate children, including Cesare and Lucrezia, with a series of mistresses:

‘For all the bombast and hyperbole about the wonders of Rome, it was Valencia that had made Rodrigo Borgia what he is: a man in love with women, wealth, orange blossom and the taste of sardines.’

Cesare Borgia, the brilliant soldier and tactician who eschews sleep in order to wrong-foot his enemies (and sometimes his allies):

‘This is who he is, who he has always been, pressing onwards, thinking on his feet, delighting in being three steps ahead of the next man. If there is any other way of living then Cesare Borgia does not know it.’

The beautiful Lucrezia Borgia, ‘the family’s prize marriage pawn’, deployed like a weapon in pursuit of the Borgias territorial ambitions:

‘The Pope’s daughter conquering city after city with charm rather than cannon.’

The story of the Borgias has it all: intrigue, murder, betrayal, corruption, power, politics, jealousy, revenge and…a bit more murder for good measure. The author does a good job of guiding the reader through the power struggles, alliances, territorial gains and losses whilst keeping the entertainment level high.  Perfect for lovers of historical fiction, my only reservation with the book is that it ends quite suddenly, skipping forward ten years to a short epilogue. I would have liked to learn in more detail what happened to Lucrezia and Macchiavelli in the intervening years.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Little Brown Group/Virago, in return for an honest review.

In three words: Epic, colourful, well-researched

Try something similar…Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant

 dunantAbout the Author

Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestseller The Birth of Venus, which has received major worldwide acclaim and In the Company of the Courtesan. With the publication of Sacred Hearts, she rounds out a Renaissance trilogy bringing voice to the lives of three different women in three different historical contexts. Sarah Dunant’s tireless research has resulted in vivid reconstructions of womens’ secret histories in the characters of a Florentine Noblewoman, a Venetian Courtesan and with Sacred Hearts the spellbinding and fascinating lives of the Sisters of Santa Caterina. Her earlier novels include three Hannah Wolfe crime thrillers, as well as Snowstorms in a Hot Climate, Transgressions, and Mapping the Edge, all three of which are available as Random House Trade Paperbacks. She has two daughters, and lives in London and Florence.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

  1. I just finished this book last night, and I was disappointed by it. The research was good, but I was confused as to what the point of the book was. And it just ends. I was trying to figure out if it was a sequel to Blood & Beauty or what. It worked as a standalone, but it seemed like the more interesting story had happened earlier (in regards to Lucrezia & Cesare & Lucrezia’s husband). It felt odd and unfinished to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree about the ending, that it was very sudden and left you with a feeling of things being unresolved. Strange that the awful treatment that Machiavelli suffered later was just covered in an epilogue. However, I loved the way the author brought to life the characters.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I agree about the ending with Machiavelli. That would’ve been interesting to read about. It was like the more interesting aspects of the book were just glossed over. I did appreciate all of the information and research that was done! I haven’t read a lot of books about the Borgias, so perhaps those exciting stories are all told elsewhere and this had a different focus.


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