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

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  2,027 ratings  ·  159 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 s ...more
Paperback, 366 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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9th out of 50 books — 122 voters
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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 Ferr ...more
Shaherzad ahmadi
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
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 li ...more
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 victim,eith ...more
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
Sara Poole
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, a ...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 w ...more
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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.
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
Elizabeth Reuter
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
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
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
Adrian Stumpp
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 lig ...more
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 di ...more
Mark Kenneth
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 Lucezi ...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 4 of 5 stars
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 wardro ...more
Kelly Korby
Feb 24, 2012 Kelly Korby rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
This book was not at all what I expected. I had understood that Lucrezia was a woman with a lurid reputation; a woman of loose morals and a murderess. Although she did have 3 husbands, this was not her doing but the desire of her father, Pope Alexander VI and her brother Cesare Borgia. Due to the fact that the book is laden with facts about all of the people active in politics, religion and in Lucrezia's every day life, it is a very dense and rather difficult book to get through. The fact that m ...more
Dave Holcomb
Not for the faint of heart: not because it's a bad book -- it's an excellent book -- but because it takes an incredible amount of concentration to keep up with the intricacies of life among the elites in Renaissance Italy.

Lucrezia's father was the Pope (Alexander VI), her older brother Cesare was the most feared and hated man in Italy, and she was a powerful, intelligent, and sophisticated woman at a time when women were more likely to be pawns than queens. This author manages to avoid the pitf
 Bunny Christine
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.
Harry Allagree
If Lucrezia Borgia lived today, I suspect that she mighthave at least one tatoo...whether or not it would be visible is another matter! She was a very interesting woman, to say the least, & yet, in the end, there was still so much mystery about her, as the book conveys. While, to many, she was nothing but a sophisticated harlot, others would laud her tremendous civic & political capabilities. Probably she falls somewhere in the middle of those descriptions. Nevertheless, she packed a lot ...more
There needs to be a Tried To Read category... because I tried like hell to get through this book, but it was so desperately disorganized, I couldn't manage. The author has done a lot of research, but seems incapable of presenting it coherently: one moment she's speaking about a specific incident at a specific time, the next she's jumped to a different person, a different decade, a different everything... and there seems to be no pertinent reference, no meaningful argument for having time-travele ...more
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.
Much of history is hearsay and often even primary sources are not reliable. This is another installment in the ongoing rehabilitation of Lucrezia Borgia. I haven't read any other, and I'm not much familiar with her or the infamous Borgia clan, but I can say the author's attempt failed to convince me. Not that I care much. The work put in this is impressive though, mainly in form of private correspondence. Ultimately we get a good and entertaining view on some of the key players during those tubu ...more
Linda Hiemstra
Just okay. I felt it was pretty dry and mostly stayed on the surface. Lots of descriptions of what Lucrezia wore at any given moment, but very little about what she was actually like. There are apparently quite a few letters left over from that period, and Bradford liberally quotes from them (sometimes a bit too much), but still I don't really feel like I got to *know* Lucrezia. She always remained a bit hidden behind the men in her life - her father, brother and successive husbands. I also felt ...more
Poor Lucrezia has quite the wicked reputation. The fact that her first marriage was dissolved under very suspicious circumstances and her second ended when her brother had her husband murdered was enough to get her labeled as an evil temptress by Renaissance standards. (Never mind none of this was particularly her fault.) Add in some nasty rumors about her sleeping with her father and/or brother (both of whom were widely hated and feared for very good reason), and the poor girl never really had ...more
I watched The Borgias, and knowing full well that it would be rampant with historical inaccuracies, it intrigued me to read more about the family. This book puts into context the life of Lucrezia and what she had to deal with as a pawn of her father and brother's political games. While certainly not an innocent bystander, she was also not in control of her own life in a lot of ways. While it's obvious the author consulted a treasure trove of primary sources, I felt the amount of detail about all ...more
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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 Th ...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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