Bruce MacBain | 2/19/2014
" I read this because I've been watching "The Borgias" on Showtime (they just started the third season) and wanted to refresh my memory of the history. The book is okay--although, incredibly, it lacks illustrations or even a single map! But the text does an adequate job of presenting that fun-loving family. In case you're interested, the TV show bears only a glancing resemblance to what really happened and the real Pope Alexander VI looked nothing like Jeremy Irons. "
Rob Atkinson | 2/2/2014
" A rather straightforward and unsensational history of one of history's most scandalous families, this work provides a good if basic overview of the careers of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) and his children, particularly Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. The infamous reputations of the former two are largely confirmed, with devious deal-making, murder, theft, simony and licentiousness aplenty. Nevertheless, the Borgia Pope did prove a wily navigator of the tricky terrain of Italian politics, successfully maintaining the Church's lands and power amidst the dangerous military tug of war between France/Milan and Spanish-ruled Naples. And after his son Cesare left his nepotistic position of Cardinal, he proved to be something of a military genius, bringing the family's enemies to heel and briefly establishing one of Italy's greatest domains in the Duchy of the Romagna, of which he was made Duke. The chief surprise here is Hibbert's account of Lucrezia, who comes across much more sympathetically than I might have expected, based on her reputation. There is no hint of her being complicit in any poisonings, and her worst crime -- putting aside the unsubstantiated rumors of incest with her brothers, and even her father the Pope(!) -- seems to have been her sexual affairs and a resulting child out of wedlock, evidently fathered by one of the Pope's grooms. Otherwise, she seems very much the model Renaissance woman, intelligent, well-educated and capable, both gracious and graceful, and quite beautiful besides. Such were her talents that she would govern in the stead of her father the Pope when he was absent from Rome, and would later do likewise for her last husband, the Duke of Ferrara. This portrayal is a bit hard to reconcile with the 'Lucrezia Borgia' of legend, and I wonder if Donizetti's opera (with which I'm admittedly unfamiliar) did for her reputation what Shakespeare's "Richard III" did, creating a legendary monster of its subject, perhaps unfairly.
I picked this up after watching the first two seasons of Showtime's "The Borgias", curious to see how many of the teleplay's extraordinary events had a basis in fact. The answer is: apparently, not a great deal. The show plays very fast and loose with the chronology, invents many episodes altogether, substitutes one historical character for another or subsumes several into one, and while its portrayal of the principals is generally true to their character, it appears the scriptwriters feel free to invent much. It's a wildly entertaining soap opera set in a fascinating place and time, but don't mistake it for history. To a lesser degree, "The Tudors" was guilty of taking the same license.
For those interested in the true story, this is a good place to start. "
Eric Zulueta | 1/21/2014
" A very interesting romp through history.. particularly that of Italy and the Vatican in the early 16Th Century. The author takes pains to provide a background of the political andecclesiastical climate of the time and how the Borgias lived through this tumultuous period. "
Sara | 1/14/2014
" I couldn't find the time to finish it. It was a bit convoluted to follow for someone who didn't already know anything about this chapter in history, but it might have been good if I could have soldiered on through it a bit farther. "
Jen Saunders | 1/1/2014
" A great general introduction to the history of the Borgias. "
Kara | 12/21/2013
" Well researched, clearly written, well presented, sources cited, and a subject simply that oozes with scandal. In short, the perfect history book. "
Tora Mutsagama | 12/16/2013
" More of a non-fiction novel than a biography. Lacking in detail, side-notes, and references. Great for people like me who have a knowledge of the Borgia history already and a love for reading about the family, but less so for someone genuinely interested in learning for the first time. "
Marlies | 10/20/2013
" Kind of boring, really. I was hoping for a juicier read. "
Carolin | 10/10/2013
" The cover looks a lot racier than the book is. Great history, well written. If you want to be lazy and don't care too much about facts but want excitement, watch "The Borgias" on dvd. "
Deb | 9/21/2013
" I think I might have liked this better if I had read this instead of listen to it. The Borgias were such a depraved family, it should have been fascinating to read about their lives. But the reading was rather dry and factual. This kind of book should read like a novel instead of a history book. "
Michael | 9/12/2013
" Straightforward basic bio of the Borja (Borgia) family. Enough to probably know when the new Showtime series (April 2011) veers from history into melodrama. If you want a lot of intrigue, speculation and conjecture, read one of the many novels about Rodrigo, Cesare or Lucrezia. "
Kathleen | 6/2/2013
" After watching season 1 of "The Borgias", I wanted to learn more and found this book. It was very matter of fact, but I never was drawn in. "
Faith | 2/1/2013
" Terse but serviceable. Excellent for a starter course; look to a different volume for the main meat. "
Aoife | 1/27/2013
" Thought it was a good overview of their story. That said, it was brief and I would have enjoyed more body to it. Was a short read for the price "
Andrea | 10/21/2012
" really vivid and interesting read! "
Ruth | 10/9/2012
" Overall an enjoyable, although grotesque and revolting, read and a good introduction. Footnotes would have been beneficial. A major takeaway for me was the lesson to avoid contracting syphilis at all costs. "