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City of God: a novel of the Borgias by Cecelia Holland

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

City of God: a novel of the Borgias by Cecelia Holland

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon August 25th, 2008, 7:15 pm

City of God: a novel of the Borgias by Cecelia Holland

After enjoying Holland’s Rakossy, I decided to continue my renaissance reads with this one, covering historical events in Italy from 1499-1503

Nicholas Dawson is a man without a loyalty, without a country. Raised by Spanish monks after his English parents died of plague in Pamplona, he now works as under-secretary for the Florentine Embassy in Rome, considers himself a wise man surrounded by idiots, and has a taste for art and young boys. (Reviewer’s note: gag.) At the book’s opening he is set upon by a thug, and to save his throat from getting cut, he persuades Stefano to come to his house for money.

Continuing the list of unsympathetic characters, Stefano remains in the plot as Nicholas’ lover, a gambler, pimp and thief who manipulates everyone. Knowing that Nicholas is a coward and besotted by him, Stefano takes the older man for all he can get.

Shortly Nicholas proposes to betray Florence to Caesare Borgia as a mole in the Florentine embassy. Borgia is at the height of his power, and Holland delights in portraying the unsavory nature of both Ceasare and his father Pope Alexander IV.
Nicholas proves valuable as the man who conceives the plan for Borgia’s subsequent betrayals of the cities of Camerino, Urbino, and Florence.

The plot painstakingly follows Caesare’s conniving, the Pope’s corruption, the unfaithful and unsatisfying relationship between the gay lovers, the evil activities of the Borgia henchmen – In fact, there wasn’t one single character in this collection you could root for.

By the time the novel drew to a close with the death of Alexander VI, complete with a historical change that had a major character dying four years before he really did, I was ready to chuck this clunker in the garbage. But it belongs to the library, so I have to return it.

If you like to wallow in unrelieved unpleasantness, try City of God.

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Rowan
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Postby Rowan » Thu October 3rd, 2013, 7:46 pm

I picked this up in haste last week at the library as I was going out of town on my vacation. I didn't read much, but what I have read is rather disappointing. With the secondary billing as A Novel of the Borgias, I expected it to be about them, not about someone living in the time that Alexander was pope. After reading your review, I think I will return it to the library a little early.

annis
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Postby annis » Fri October 4th, 2013, 4:20 am

Although I’ve read quite a few of Holland’s novels and loved them, I’ve never read City of God. However I did read Sarah Dunant’s Blood & Beauty a few months ago and recommend it as an entertaining and informative overview of the Borgia period, with all its power-mongering and political manoeuvering.

This one is less personalized and more narrative history in style than we're used to seeing in Dunant's work and has a wide-angle, cinematic epic feel about it. This approach works well though in covering such a complex period, and her characters, although frequently unashamedly amoral (and in the case of Cesare, clearly sociopathic) are very human, credible and by no means unsympathetic. Lucrezia’s struggle to become a person in her own right and not just a political tool is particularly well portrayed.

Dunant is working on a sequel, so there is a lot more of the Borgia story yet to come.

Review of Blood & Beauty at Sarah J's Reading the Past blog here:
http://readingthepast.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/review-of-blood-beauty-borgias-by-sarah.html
Last edited by annis on Fri October 4th, 2013, 6:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Rowan
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Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
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Postby Rowan » Sat October 5th, 2013, 7:44 pm

Thanks for that info annis!!! You're a gem! :)

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SonjaMarie
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Postby SonjaMarie » Sun October 6th, 2013, 6:01 pm

I'm reading G.J. Meyer's non fic book "The Borgias", and he definitely has some interesting theories about them, none I wish to share in case anyone wishes to read it, but his biggest one makes a lot of sense with way he presents it and backs it up.

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Lucy Pick
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Postby Lucy Pick » Wed October 23rd, 2013, 3:30 pm

Oh, I have to confess that I love this book --- I even re-read it over the summer. People interested in the Borgias might also like Helle Haase's "The Scarlet City" which is set after most of the Borgias except Lucretia are dead and is about a man who believes he is a Borgia but doesn't know who his parents are (unless you have all decided my taste is beyond the pale!). I am looking forward to reading Dunant's book too.


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