Maybe this is just a Thing with me and books, but this started out really fascinating, and as it went on was less interesting, when it got into more mMaybe this is just a Thing with me and books, but this started out really fascinating, and as it went on was less interesting, when it got into more modern times. Still, it was really good....more
I acknowledge that maybe this is just not my type of book.
But I think that there were some flaws. I think calling this book Hitler's Pope oversells iI acknowledge that maybe this is just not my type of book.
But I think that there were some flaws. I think calling this book Hitler's Pope oversells it. On page ten, the author writes "...Pio Nono, crowned in 1846, was convinced, as had been his predecessors from time immemorial, that papal territories forming the midriff of the Italian peninsula ensure the independence of the successors to St. Peter." I just can't get down with that. Bishops of Rome from "time immemorial"? Come on, we do have records from the late Roman and early medieval period about Pio Nono's predecessors. Bishops of Rome, before they had become the Pope, did not always control the midriff of the Italian peninsula. It's a historically inaccurate assertion that seems to be driven by religious faith.
I could not finish this book; I read up to page 120 and then skipped to the last chapter (p. 237-255). The organization of the book did not work for mI could not finish this book; I read up to page 120 and then skipped to the last chapter (p. 237-255). The organization of the book did not work for me; my main issue were the author's point of view, founding assumptions, and 'values', which I found distasteful.
I thought the organization of this book was detrimental to its content. Each chapter was on a theme, one aspect of the king-mistress relationship; there were also subchapters for a more granular look at the theme. Because of this, Herman revisits the some of the same kings and mistresses for each theme. Louis XIV and Madames de Pompadour and du Barry, Charles II and Barbara Lady Castlemaine, and Ludwig of Bavaria and Lola Montez all come up repeatedly but a complete view never coheres. For me, the way the book was organized made it hard to keep reading and to glean information.
Saying that Herman "writes history from a woman's perspective", as her author bio at the front of the book does, is technically true as Herman is a woman and does write history. She is not, as "a woman's perspective" implies, sympathetic to the women (or the men) she writes about. The people in Sex and Kings are one-dimensional. I think this is because of Herman's moralistic approach and mindset, which is really what made me give up. The overall impression I got is that Herman thinks all of the mistresses were greedy sluts. She doesn't consider the position of women in 17th and 18th century societies, or other things that would have pushed them into these choices.
In the final chapter, Herman gets nasty. In discussing contemporary royalty, she describes the fiancee of Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon as "tainted" because she was a waitress and strawberry picker who hadn't finished her education and had an "illegitimate son". TAINTED??? That is a dementedly retrograde idea of morality. But then this is the what Herman wrote about the King of Serbia who married his mistress after the queen died, and was later killed by revolutionaries in the royal palace: "We find an almost biblical morality lesson in cases where the monarch made an unseemly marriage. Divine wrath was swift and sure. It was as if the Almighty did not approve of the king transforming fornication into the sanctified sex of marriage. For a worse sin than fornication was ignorance of one's proper place in the scheme of things. When a mere pawn became queen in the chessboard of life, the game was forfeit." (p.241) I just feel dirty reading this nonsense, and I find myself actually disliking the author.
In writing this review, it occurred to me that this book is like a tabloid paper because they use provocative subject matter, cover image and, title while at the same time adhere to the same old busted morality....more