P.J. Sullivan's Reviews > Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia by Maria Bellonci
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Feb 22, 14

bookshelves: biography, history, nonfiction
Read in August, 2009

This is a reliable biography of Lucretia Borgia. (Yes, she spelled her name Lucretia, not Lucrezia.) The author accessed many primary sources—official documents, Vatican archives, contemporary letters and diaries. It is not an easy read, as there are many characters and titles to keep track of. The political alliances are complicated and keep changing. It is worth the effort, but I could have done without the detailed descriptions of wardrobes, pomp, and ceremony.

This book will surprise you if you are expecting a notorious poisoner putting arsenic and henbane into drinks right and left. Lucretia’s sinister reputation is myth, mostly guilt by association. I haven’t seen any evidence that she ever poisoned anyone. She can be faulted for aiding and abetting her brother Cesare, but what choice did she have against such a monster? She was a pawn in the power games of her father and her brother. Deep down, she was a pious fan of poetry and poets.

The Borgias are enshrouded in mystery and “the mystery is insoluble,” says Maria Bellonci. This book may not answer all your questions, but it will give you authentic glimpses into Renaissance Italy.

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