This is another non-fiction book that follows the bad advice to start in the middle of the action and then explain how things got there. In this case,This is another non-fiction book that follows the bad advice to start in the middle of the action and then explain how things got there. In this case, that means beginning with the St Bartholemew's Day massacre. For either fiction or non-fiction I do not want to read about things happening to people when I don't have any reason to care about the people yet. This is a fascinating book, well written and engaging, and good at explaining what's going on. She does a good job of picking her way through the minefield of too many people being called Henri. She also unashamedly takes sides -- Margot's side over Catherine's. I would have liked it much better had it begun in the beginning, but I did enjoy it nevertheless. It very much made me want a book about the previous generation in France -- why hasn't somebody written a good biography of Anne of Brittany? I'd have thought she was just the kind of person.
Recommended to anyone who is vaguely interested in France in the sixteenth century and doesn't know much about it. This is far from being a special interest of mine, so this filled gaps nicely.
Incidentally, it doesn't explain who Catherine de' Medici is, other than Italian and a Medici (Goldstone is only interested in France as far as I can tell), so for Medici obsessives I will footnote it here. She's the daughter of Lorenzo II and his aristocratic French wife Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, and therefore the grand-daughter of Piero the Unfortunate and Alfonsina Orsini, and the great-grand-daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Clarice Orsini. She did some terrible things, but she also had a terrible and fascinating life....more
I read this because I read an essay of Voltaire's about Bacon in which he mentioned various details of Bacon's life in his incomparable ironic way andI read this because I read an essay of Voltaire's about Bacon in which he mentioned various details of Bacon's life in his incomparable ironic way and I realised that while I was entirely familiar with Bacon's thought and significance I didn't know the first thing about his personal life. So I read it for the gossip.
This is a smooth well written biography that nicely fleshed out the details of Voltaire's hints. I always say I like biography as a way of reading history because lives resist the kind of tidy periodization that historians like so much. This is a prime example. Bacon lived and was educated and had his career stall under Elizabeth I, and then thrived and advanced and was disgraced under James I. (It's good that he was disgraced. It gave him more time for scholarship.) Thoroughly enjoyable book, I'm glad I've read it....more
This joins Delany's Mad Man on the short list of books I have stopped reading because of my gag reflex. It was the description of CatherGave up at 71%
This joins Delany's Mad Man on the short list of books I have stopped reading because of my gag reflex. It was the description of Catherine of Siena. You might think her pus-drinking shows love and holiness, Vost certainly does, but I literally find it sickening.
I was reading this as Savonarola background research, and I suppose it was reasonably useful for that. I wish there was a really good readable book on Renaissance monasticism....more
Thorough, diligent, scholarly, and full of closely researched detail. This is a book that's narrow and deep, it's focused on clothes, and how we can uThorough, diligent, scholarly, and full of closely researched detail. This is a book that's narrow and deep, it's focused on clothes, and how we can use the lens of clothes to appreciate the families of the Florentine Renaissance. This isn't an especially fun read, or very interesting except as research reading, but as research reading it's amazingly useful on all kinds of things, from the social status of a tailor, details of women's lives, and the way grand-daughters might get married in the family colours of their grandmother. The information on sumptuary legislation and the way it was dealt with by constantly changing the fashion slightly "no, this isn't the forbidden kind of edging, the law says nothing about this kind, it was just invented!" makes so much more sense of Savonarola's actions against "vanities". There's also an invaluable table of annual pay for different people, which would be worth the price of the book alone. And I very much liked the visual examples from art, and the discussion of why certain things were visible and invisible in art. ...more
Thorough. It's not concerned with readability, and it tends to be a little repetitive, but it isn't long and it is full of valuable detail. This was aThorough. It's not concerned with readability, and it tends to be a little repetitive, but it isn't long and it is full of valuable detail. This was a book I read entirely for research purposes, and I recommend it for anyone else who needs it for that. I wish there was a parallel book on male monasticism in the period....more