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Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  2,530 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
The very name Lucrezia Borgia conjures up everything that was sinister and corrupt about the Renaissance—incest, political assassination, papal sexual abuse, poisonous intrigue, unscrupulous power grabs. Yet, as bestselling biographer Sarah Bradford reveals in this breathtaking new portrait, the truth is far more fascinating than the myth. Neither a vicious monster nor a ...more
Paperback, 366 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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May 23, 2012 Lindley rated it it was amazing
I could not disagree more with the reviewers who are lambasting this book for its lack of purple prose and for not having the Antonia Frasier approach of “just make stuff up”. Meticulously referenced and using vast amounts of primary sources, as well as looking in a measured way at historical debates, this is exactly what a biography should be – and Lucrezia emerges from her own voice and those of the people around her, rather than as a trashy historical fiction heroine.

What emerges is fascinati
Rio (Lynne)
I have been looking for a book about Lucrezia that told her complete life story, so many books only cover her childhood or her first or second marriage. This non-fiction book covered it all...The notorious Borgia family...all three husbands Giovanni Sforza, Alfonso of Aragon and Alfonso d' Este...The Italian Wars and an intimate look and detailed history about the city of Ferrara, where Lucrezia's life ended. I'm not a big non-fiction fan, but this book answered my questions. I just visited ...more
Shaherzad ahmadi
May 03, 2012 Shaherzad ahmadi rated it it was ok
It's hard to review this book because I know she spent a fair amount of time researching materials for the biography but then good research does not imply good writing. I seldom read histories of biographies, but when I do I always turn to Antonia Fraser and I think Bradford should take a page from one of her books to understand the tonality biographies of these types should assume in order to express both admiration for a great, historical figure and empathy for a real human being. Lucrezia is ...more
Sarah u
4.5 stars

This is a good, thorough biography of Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, from her beginnings as a 'Borgia daughter' to her end as the Duchess of Ferrara. Bradford discusses Lucrezia's life, relationships, marriages, births, and affairs using plenty of primary sources and where necessary engages with and debates the work of other writers who work with this period. Lucrezia's life is discussed within its context- Bradford never fails to inform the reader about what is going o
Jul 20, 2010 MKat rated it it was ok
I'm still very interested in Lucrezia and the Borgias generally, but I just do not like Bradford's style. Very clinical and dry, which is NOT what you want from a biography of a Borgia! Bradford just sloughs along from one event to another in Lucrezia's life, interspersing lengthy (and often irrelevant and/or sycophantic) excerpts from her letters that, oftentimes, you're just happy to zip through. This book suffers the most common and worst fate of biographies - the subjects just do not feel ...more
Oct 04, 2011 Madeline rated it it was ok
Like most historical figures that interest me, I was first introduced to Lucrezia Borgia and her awesome, psychotic family through historic fiction. In high school I read The Borgia Bride, which was told from the perspective of Lucrezia's sister-in-law, Sancha of Aragon. It was awesome (and, as I now know from reading this book, pretty accurate) for several reasons: first, lots of sex, which to a fifteen-year-old is a great recommendation in itself; second, it was full of poisonings, backstabbin ...more
Feb 13, 2011 Kajah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While some people may find Bradford's meticulous approach to Lucrezia dull, the books reliance on primary sources, mostly correspondence between major players in Lucrezia's life, made for a satisfying listen (I listened to it on MP3). The book dodges the villainous reputation that various operas, plays, and histories have apparently given her and instead portrays her as woman caught in a powerful family that used deception and violence to grab land and power. She isn't portrayed as a ...more
Sara Poole
Aug 13, 2009 Sara Poole rated it it was amazing
Long vilified as a murderess, conspirator and partner to incest, Lucrezia Borgia was overdue for a reappraisal by a serious historian able to blast past the stereotypes. Sarah Bradford does exactly that by dint of meticulous research revealing the fascinating if turbulent life of the daughter of Pope Alexander VI. Used by her father to advance his political ambitions, Lucrezia endured an early marriage that was annulled under questionable circumstances, the brutal murder of her second husband, ...more
The great thing about anything by Sarah Bradford is that she adores her subjects, yet can look at them from an objective manner. The bad thing about Sarah Bradford is that she adores her subjects, and thus is meticulously detailed in her work. If you are not a hardcore fan of whatever she's writing about--in this case the Borgia family--you probably won't like her biographies. Lucrezia Borgia, in particular, is somewhat sparsely documented in some cases; we can't always know for sure where she ...more
I actually have to be honest and say I didn't enjoy reading this at all. I found it to be dull. I felt like we never got to read about Lucrezia and certainly never got to know her. The book is written in a way that all of the unfamiliar Italian names are confusing. It got to the point where I'd pick it up and not even know what the author was talking about. It took me forever to finish this book and I'd be put off reading anything else from this author.
Jul 13, 2010 Dorothy rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth Reuter
Jan 14, 2013 Elizabeth Reuter rated it liked it
Unfortunately, Lucrezia Borgia promises a lot it doesn't deliver on.

The book is only half about Lucrezia. Bradford branches out to tell the stories of not only those close to her, but those who had barely anything to do with her.

This could be excused as a way of teaching readers about Lucrezia's Italy. Except:

a) Bradford drops so many names that only a historian could keep track of everyone, and

b) Bradford tell us little of what Lucrezia herself did.

For example, Bradford mentions that Lucrezia
Sep 08, 2016 Morgan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, own
This has been sitting on my shelve I want to say more or less than ten years, so I finally decided to actually read it instead of just looking at it. Although I love the Borgia history and it's one of my top historical topics, this book didn't interest me as much as I thought it would. Towards the end of the book, I realized that yes I do like Lucrezia Borgia, but I like learning about the Borgia family as a whole. Reading them individually just doesn't cover what I'm interested about the ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Natalie rated it it was ok
When I finished this book:

Several years ago I was preparing to go to Europe for the first time. I was at Costco one day and I was finishing up my trip with the usual stop at the book table when I saw this book. With grandiose intentions I thought "Oh Natalie! Wouldn't you be so smart to read all about the European countries you're going to visit. And look! Here is a book about Lucrezia Borgia! Lucrezia = Borgias = Italy! Brilliant!"

I started this book thinking it would be the first in a long l
Sep 19, 2010 Belinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-bio
This was a wonderful biography---and one of the few honest ones of Lucrezia Borgia out there. Most bios before a certain time are to be avoided--littered with inaccuracies and downright slander. Also usually far too filled with information on her illustrious if somewhat decadent family. This book truly focuses on Lucrezia herself. It starts with her beginnings and a nice overview of the warring families and duchys that made up Italy at the time and from which she sprung.
The book pretty quickly
Dec 29, 2011 Chloe rated it it was ok
While this is clearly a thoroughly well researched book it somehow still leaves me knowing very little about Lucrezia Borgia, maybe this is because so much of the detail of her life is known only through the letters of the other people in her world. Unfortunately for Sarah Bradford it seems that there just isn't enough evidence to support or refute any claims about Lucrezia, and she remains a largely shadowy figure. This book seems to not quite know what it is trying to be, it's not informative ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Jae rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-books
In a lot of ways this book was very interesting yet a little frustrating. For a woman about whom so much has been written, and so many incredibly scandalous things, there really isn't very much known about her. Compared to other women of her time, there's a lot, but still there are a lot of empty spaces especially in terms of how she felt about the many amazing things that happened in her life. But even given that, her life was fascinating, and certainly the time period was fascinating. There ...more
Adrian Stumpp
Jan 06, 2010 Adrian Stumpp rated it liked it
Bradford achieved fame for an apparently first rate retelling of the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I have not read that book but I hope it is better than the current one. A deplorable trend is building steam among historians, and hence, biographers, that literary license makes for bad history. Therefore, we get a chronological detail of the events of the Borgia dynasty, heavy on factual information that is well researched from the vaults of the Vatican and quick paced in narrative, but ...more
I loved this book and enjoyed the subject too much to find it tedious, although I can see how others might. It's an illuminating biography on one of history's most (in)famous women, and although much of the rumor and glamour of the Borgia legacy has been stripped by the truth (or the closest we'll ever come to the truth, anyway), it is still a fascinating read. Indeed, Lucrezia shines the brightest not as the daughter of the pope, but when she was the Duchess of Ferrara; being no longer subject ...more
Mark Kenneth
Sep 09, 2012 Mark Kenneth rated it did not like it
Sorry to say, but this book is a total pile-on of confusing names, dates and setups that still have not delivered for me 1/3 of the way in. This one was a hard slog and I give up. This book needed a better editor, who should of told Ms. brdford to stop packing so much in .... I mean just read here acknowlegment page with out your eyes going cross. I think good history should put things into context and tell a compelling story, give possible insights and illuminate the past. Also a book on ...more
This is a true story covering the life of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, who lived in what is now Italy in the late 1400s. Lucrezia has been charged with incest and murder, but Bradford paints a different portrait of a young woman who spent much of her life under the rule of her father and brother and was used as a pawn in their machinations toward gaining more power.

This is not a book for people who enjoy light, fast reading. There is a lot of detail presented
Sep 13, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history and rennaissance fans
This book was clearly very well researched and quite well written. The author offers some interesting perspectives on Lucrezia's life. It's hard to get a good perspective on who exactly Lucrezia was, largely because most of what is known of her has to be gathered from third party sources. In spite of a few too many details about clothing, jewels and furniture (there may be no heart-felt record of Lucrezia's true emotions in existence but there sure is a lot of documentation concerning her ...more
Sarah(All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)
I thought the Borgias were supposed to be interesting. Perhaps it is Bradford's writing style that made it less so.

I know as much about Lucrezia as I did before - which is almost nothing. She never feels like a real person and two of the three most important relationships in her life are hardly given much attention.

I know Bradford did a lot of research and she certainly knows her subject well, but it doesn't translate into helping her readers know Lucrezia better. Highly disappointed in this one
Kelly Korby
Feb 24, 2012 Kelly Korby rated it liked it
Recommends it for: History/Italian History Fans
Recommended to Kelly by: Library after watching The Borgias SHOWTIME series
Not a bad book,Braford's prose is a little dry,and I feel she highlights Lucrezia's seedier side with a little too much emphasis.But she also focuses on her compassionate side also,pleading the case for many people during her life.Bradford does manage to introduce many different people into the story,including a couple references to King Henry VIII of England.Several characters to keep track of throughout the book and you really have to focus on the story and what the timeline is or it can be a ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Juliette rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Having just finished a book on Henry VII that was all over the place chronologically, and this book while not as bad, but did jump around a bit, I did have a difficult time piecing together some of the concurring events.
However, this is the first Borgia book that really got into Lurcrezia's life after the death of her father and brother, which is what I always felt was missing and wanted to know more about.
Jun 06, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Informative, but it became a chore to read over time. The writer became distracted several times delving into what other people were doing, when a summary of their doings and how they tied to Lucrezia's life would have sufficed. Also, the excessive use of quoting letters also added to the difficulty of reading it. Paraphrasing would have worked in some cases just as well.
 Bunny Christine
May 25, 2014 Bunny Christine rated it it was ok
If I were ever to write an historical fiction novel based upon Lucrezia's life and loves, I would utilize this biography's in-depth historical information. I only wish the information was organized in a readable format. Bradford includes so much background information that she loses sight of the books main character, Lucrezia Borgia.
Nov 20, 2008 Heidi rated it did not like it
How can a biography can ruined? By being nothing more than a chronology of events. There was little insight; the author attempted to cleanse Lucrezia of her awful reputation, which is laudable, I suppose. But for God's sake, she could have infused a little passion into her writing! Sadly, it was boring, boring, boring -- I couldn't finish it.
Elizabeth Sulzby
I have written a lot about Sarah Bradford's Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy but just discovered I had not written anything about it in Goodreads. This is perhaps the best history of Lucrezia herself and also of the Borgia family in relation to Lucrezia.
Apr 15, 2013 Kara rated it it was ok
Shelves: bios-and-memoirs
More about the Borgia family than Miz L. A dry read, and sweet Lord SO MANY ALFONSOS. And Giovannis. It got difficult to keep track of all of them.
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Educated at St. Mary’s Convent, Shaftesbury Dorset, where she won a State Scholarship and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she won a College Scholarship in History, Sarah Bradford is an historian and biographer who has travelled extensively, living in the West Indies, Portugal and Italy. She speaks four languages which have been invaluable in her research for her various books, particularly ...more
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“Elisabetta Gonzaga de Montefeltro, Duchess of Urbino, was one of the most celebrat women of her age. . . She was much praised for her saintliness in enduring a sexless marriage to Guidobaldo who was both impotent and for much of his life crippled by what was described as 'gout' but was probably rheumatoid arthritis, which deformed his body from a young age. According to the archivist Luzio, despite his impotence Guidobaldo was extremely erotically inclined, so that Elisabetta was in a state of suspense every day in case he might fall upon her and have a relapse.” 1 likes
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