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The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women and Power in Renaissance Italy

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  59 reviews
The book is one of drama on a grand scale, a Renaissance epic, as Christendom emerged from the shadows of the calamitous 14th century. The sweeping tale involves inspired and corrupt monarchs, the finest thinkers, the most brilliant artists, and the greatest beauties in Christendom.

Here is the story of eight of its most remarkable women, who are all joined by birth,
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by HarperCollins (first published November 22nd 2012)
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I was so excited to get my hands on this book. It seemed to be right up my alley: a study of eight aristocratic women and how their actions impacted on the political schemes and upheavals of Renaissance Italy. And Freida's chosen as her subjects some truly fascinating women: Lucrezia Tornabuoni, the politically savvy mother of Lorenzo de' Medici; Clarice Orsini, Lorenzo's oft-ignored wife; Caterina Sforza, the notorious "Tiger of Forli"; sisters Isabella and Beatrice d'Este, both great patrons ...more
Maritina Mela

Wow, this book almost gave me a brain freeze.
And I don't know if it actually has to do with the book itself or with the fact that I like documentaries and podcasts that talk about real life events much more than the books that do the same...
And not only that, but despite the title, it's pretty easy to tell that those women the author claims that she wants to shed more light on, unfortunately aren't the main focus here...
It is possible I had too high expectations going into The Deadly Sisterhood, but the premise was fantastic: a book about eight different women, often overlooked, living in one of the most tumultuous and fascinating time periods. The Deadly Sisterhood also has, honestly, one of the best and most promising introduction I've ever read; but, unfortunately, in the end it turned out to be quite a disappointment.

Let's start with the positive things first. The book doesn't follow each woman separately,
Lolly's Library
1.5 stars

Nope, couldn't do it. After reading the enlightening The Borgias: The Hidden History, I can no longer respect another book in which the same old salacious stories about the Borgia family are repeated. Oh, Leonie Frieda qualifies a few of the worst rumors with a “perhaps” or “possibly not”, but only in a very reluctant way; all other stories about the Borgias, and Lucrezia specifically, are eagerly related in an almost cackling, “look at how awful these people were” sort of way. She does
I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, given how epic Caterina Sforza is in the Assassin’s Creed games. I have read a biography of Caterina herself (Tigress of Forli, by Elizabeth Lev), so I didn’t read this so much for her as for the other women in its pages. I found it a little disorganised, really; it isn’t neatly divided into eight sections, and it’s sometimes hard to see exactly which woman is the key player. And Frieda is claiming to deal with women as key players in Renaissance ...more
Amy Bruno
Just got approved for a digital review copy of this book - Woo Hoo!!!
Oh dear: this should have been such a treat - a group biography of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este, Caterina Sforza, Lucrezia Borgia, Contessina de'Bardi, Clarice Orsini and Lucrezia Tornabuoni - but it was let down by a total lack of copy-editing and sloppy judgemental writing [Joffre Borgia in Naples 'reverting to the superficial ways of a nincompoop']. I've only listed seven names - for the life of me I can't think of the eighth, and none of them were princesses, either :-0

I can't see who this
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note--My copy of this book is actually titled The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance.

An unwieldy cast of characters drifts in and out of this book's chapters making it hard to keep track of them all, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book once I adopted a more relaxed attitude. It's packed with 100 years of turbulent history told through up close and personal accounts of several prominent families, making the book as entertaining as a well
I really, really wanted to like this book. I pushed through the purple prose of the prologue because the stories are just fascinating. But after page 159, I had to stop. Pages 151 -153, Frieda writes about the Italians were prejudiced against the Spaniards, especially the Catalans. Then she refers to the Catalans as marranos. on pages 153 and 155. She wrote in the footnote that "Marrano was the highly derogatory, largely anti-Semitic term used to describe the Valencian people." NO. Marrano ...more
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted this book to be great, and as long as you go in to it looking for an admirable historical retelling of these women's fathers, brothers, husbands, and lovers then you have a gem on your hands, but it's not what I was looking for. I had hoped Frieda would have more information about the 8 women the book proports to be about as Caterina Sforza's life always sounds so fascinating. A warrior, alchemist, scholar who is also a woman that lived during the Italian Renaissance? I want to ...more
Not a lady-assassins novel, but a history book about the role of eight significant women in Unknown.jpegthe Italian peninsula during the Renaissance.

I scored this at a school market for about $2, which was very cool.

Firstly, two problems:

1. There were a number of egregious editing issues, which really annoyed me. A major publisher should not be putting out books with mistakes that *I* can pick up as I read it - it's not like I read with the attention of a copy editor.
2. More significantly, the
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Pageantry and Brutality of the Renaissance

The Renaissance was a time of contradictions: sumptuous courts, exquisite art and architecture, classical works of literature, but also greed, malice and murder. It was a time when political disputes were often solved by the dagger. Women as well as men played a significant role in this turbulent time: Lucrezia Burnabuoni, who helped her son Lorenzo d'Medici rule Florence; Caterina Sforza, who tricked her husband's assassins into letting into the
Christy B
There is nothing I like better than reading about empowered women who fought against the restrictions of their time. So, when I heard about The Deadly Sisterhood more than a year ago, I immediately put it on my wish list. And I was thrilled when I was able to read an advance copy.

The Deadly Sisterhood is mainly about eight women from the Italian Renaissance. And while the focus is on these eight women, we do hear about others.

The main point of this book was to see the lasting legacies the women
In the Italian Renaissance 1427 - 1527

Women in the Italian Renaissance

This is an excellent read for anyone desiring to learn more about this period, understanding that most books on this era have the same problems. There are over one hundred fifty papal states; there is continuous warring and attempting to take over another’s kingdom; and there is continual strife over and with each Pope. Although this book is entitled to bring a new facet of the women who played important parts during these
Meghan Emery
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've always loved history, but I've never really gotten into Italian History after Christianity entered the picture. Frieda helped me learn to appreciate the Italian Renaissance and the smart conniving women who shaped it. The information is pretty straight forward with no hedging or "interpretations" or guessing games. There is definitely no tweaking history here. The only thing that brought down the rating for me was the inconsistency. At times it felt like I was being told a story, and at ...more
Laura Jordan
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
So did Isabella d'Este steal the author's boyfriend in high school? Pour sugar down her gas tank? Kill her father in a duel? Otherwise, I'm hard-pressed to explain the apparent deep-seated animus that she has for a woman whose greatest crimes seem to be occasionally taking advantage of her friends' misfortune, envying her perfect sister-in-law, and getting fat. So that bugged. And the typos, too. ("Francesco Gorizaga" instead of "Francesco Gonzaga," etc.) Aside from those two quibbles, though, I ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came to Leonie Frieda on the back of her biography of Catherine De Medici, which, despite not being particularly within my period of interest, was a really enjoyable and deep look at a complex personality who deserved to be re-examined for the modern era. With half an eye on reading her biography of Francis I once it became a bit cheaper, my hope was that the Deadly Sisterhood would compliment my existing reading on the earlier Italian Renaissance and give equally good service to some of the ...more
Aside from reading about the Borgias, I know very, very little of the history of Italy. As a story, this book is interesting in a mild way. Lucrezia di Francesco Turnabuoni, the mother of Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence, was definitely a matriarch and co-ruler with her son until she died. She picked Lorenzo's wife Clarice Orsini (of the Roman family) because she was pretty enough, biddable and an Orsini. Clarice was disliked by other Florentine women because she was a "stranger". They had ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ehhh. This was more "these women lived at the same time as a bunch of men who did much more interesting things". If I pick up a book on the women of the Italian Renaissance, I want to read about THEM. Tell me more about Clarice Orsini Medici instead of spending 30 pages on the Pazzi conspiracy. If I wanted to learn more about that I'd pick up a book on the subject. Likewise with Lucrezia Borgia, who regularly gets shoved aside to make place for her brother Cesare. Poor Clarice Orsini fares even ...more
Harper really went for presentation on this book: lovely cover, color plates, nice presentation. Guess where they skimped? If you picked editing, you'd be right. The first third of the book has a surprising number of typos for such an otherwise well-packaged book, mostly missing words, which gets annoying after the first three or so. There are fairly confusing sections, which, granted, it was a confusing time period. But you will learn more about Cesare Borgia than you would expect from a book ...more
I picked this book up, drawn by its emphasis on the key women of the Renaissance era. However, while it does profile the likes of Lucrezia Borgia in extensive and sympathetic fashion, they get somewhat lost amid a constant stream of names which rapidly become confusing to the general reader - even *with* the family trees that are included at the front of the book. The author rushes through events without fully explaining contexts - leading to a bewildering succession of marriages, murders, ...more
Anja Fruelund
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping biography of the great women of Italian renaissance and their lives and times. An age of great sophistication and brutality not a page is turned without warfare, plotting, deceit, murder, adultery and in short drama. Alison Weir is a very good historian, a thorough researcher and good at conveying her material. And it is not easy material to convey, as renaissance Italy was a peninsula with constantly shifting power structures. A fine tribute, to these clever ladies, who proved very ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! Learnt a lot about Renaissance history through the story of these women. The book doesn't focus as much as I would have liked on these women (especially Caterina Sforza), and instead focused more on the overall history of Renaissance Italy in that era. Nonetheless, it was still very interesting. It was a bit cumbersome at points (it's almost impossible to keep up with all the characters as they're all related to one another in some way) but overall I'm happy that I spent the time to ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved it! Caterina Sforza was such a badass and I enjoyed learning more about her after seeing her in The Borgias. The book kind of jumped around a bit but, to my recollection, Freida made sure to establish her topic for each chapter fairly early. So I didn’t wind up being too lost. Overall, a very nice examination of some ruling class women at the height of the Italian Renaissance.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, own
Whilst I appreciated some of the portraits drawn of some of these women, a biased tone against the Isabella I found extremely off-putting and disappointing considering Frieda did a good job tackling Catherine de Medici.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
The structure with its interwoven narratives makes it occasionally difficult to follow the stories of the 8 women profiled here. Also it is surprisingly boring for a biography of such interesting women.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Initially I really enjoyed this book, however the garbled structure and wandering style became irritating and confusing in the long run. The book is not terrible by any stretch of the imagination but could have benefited from a bit of polishing. I will probably avoid this author in the future.
Beth Medved
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awesome epic look into the lives of the women who lived in the Italian Renaissance. In depth and full of murder, deceit and fashion of course.
On the surface, The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427-1527 has all the hallmarks of a stellar non-fiction novel – infamous subjects, fascinating time period, biographer with experience. Unfortunately, the execution of the book leaves much to be desired, and it is difficult to figure out where the fault lies. The women’s stories are fascinating, but it takes too long for Ms. Frieda to get to them. What’s worse, the promise of a biography ...more
I read what appears to be this book but it had the sub-title "The Story of Women, Power and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance 1457-1557". It would have helped to know at the outset that it was about 8 princesses. Has I known, I'd have looked for them since the book is so sweeping it is hard to tell who the subjects are at times. Reading the reviews below, it is clearly the same book.

Multiple biographies are tough to write. Unless it's a family history where there is a lot of common ground
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Swedish by birth, but educated in Britain, Germany and France, Leonie Frieda speaks five languages. Her researches on Catherine de Medici has taken her to Paris, Florence and Rome, as well as the châteaux of the Loire. Her next book is a biography of the Great War soldier and letter-writer Edward Horner. She lives in London with her daughter Elisabeth and son Jake.