Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pop Historical Novels about the Borgias

I went to B&N and saw a big Borgias book display.   

The display suggests that fans of the Showtime miniseries, The Borgias, may also also want to read novels and biographies about the prominent corrupt Renaissance family.  Among the novels are Jean Plaidy's Madonna of the Seven Hills, John Faunce's Lucrezia Borgia, and Sara Poole's Poison:  A Novel of the Renaissance. The nonfiction includes Sarah Bradford's Lucrezia Borgia:  Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy and The Borgias and Their Enemies

Well, I was quite excited.  I don't have cable, but I do have a copy of Jean Plaidy's Lucrezia Borgia novel, Madonna of the Seven Hills.

So I've been reading it this weekend. 

Plaidy, one of the most popular English historical novelists of the '50s and '60s, wrote two novels about Lucrezia Borgia. (You may know Plaidy as Victoria Holt:  her real name was Eleanor Hibberd and she wrote under several pseudonyms.) I am enthralled by Madonna of the Seven Hills, perhaps because I'm a Plaidy addict.  This well-written, enjoyable pop novel begins with the heroine Lucrezia's birth.  Vannozza, the mistress of Cardinal Roderigo Borgia, age 38 when Lucrezia is born, is uncertain whether Roderigo, a womanizer, will hang around much longer.  Fortunately he is thrilled with his golden-haired daughter and comes often to visit her and his young sons, Cesare and Giovanni. 

Roderigo, in case you didn't know, was Spanish-born and aspired to be pope.  On the death of Pope Innocent VIII, he was elected Pope Alexander VI. In the novel, there is much scheming and conspiring, and he buys the conclave votes.

Lucrezia Borgias
But Plaidy's tale of decadence really begins with the rivalry of Cesare and Giovanni Borgia's rivalry for their younger sister Lucrezia's attention.  The two boys hate each other, are violent, and grow up to be promiscuous and cruel.  Lucrezia is sweet, but they slowly corrupt her.  Even when she is a toddler, they tell her quite a lot she doesn't need to know.  When Roderigo ambitiously decides their futures for them for political reasons--Cesare must go into the church,  Giovanni take the place of a much older brother in Spain who dies, a duke--the boys are unhappy.  Cesare, who becomes an archbishop, hates the church, and Giovanni wants to live in Rome.

Only Lucrezia is happy as a young girl transferred to the household of Adrianna, a sophisticated woman with whom Roderigo sends the children to live.  She is becomes close to Giulia, the wife of Adrianna's son, who becomes Roderigo's mistress. 

Anyway, this book is about plot, plot, and plot.  Can you tell?  But I have also read a little history of the Borgias and find them fascinating.

Displays are my downfall.  If you want me to BUY a book, just put it in an attractive cardboard display. 

I was able to watch the first episode of The Borgias online. There is also a page at Showtime with a list of Borgias books.

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