Sins of the House of Borgia

Sins of the House of Borgia

This book centers about the life of Esther, a Sephardi Jew.  She left Spain during her childhood after Queen Isabella’s expulsion of the Jews from Spain.  She moves to Rome, a haven for Jews from the persecution from the Inquisition, then at her father’s behest she enters into the service of Lucrezia Borgia — this is after converting to Christianity.  Lucrezia becomes her godmother, gives her a new, Christian name and introduces her to her brother Cesare Borgia, the Duke of Valentinois.

Esther is then introduced to the pleasures and dangers of courtly life and is slowly woven into the web of intrigues, betrayals and passion that are the trademarks of the Borgia family.  She also falls head over heels in love with Cesare, but their affair is something rather odd, full of one sided mysteries, intrigue, unspoken truths.  It is really a great page turner, and the ending is rather unexpected.

Sarah Bower’s take on Lucrezia and Cesare was enthralling.  They were portrayed as self-centered, lustful, cynical and calculating people, but she also made them loyal, family oriented, fun, friendly, very passionate in their affairs, and contrary to what is expected from them, she did not make them great liars, but really great at keeping things concealed or telling veiled truths.  The book is written as a memoir, and it works out wonderfully this way.   Stylistically, I find that Bower’s first person point of view is much better handled here than what I have seen in the works of other, much more famous authors of historical fiction.  She also makes her character, Esther, very reachable, very human, and flawed. The tone of the story has a rather self-deprecating, honest, humbling quality to it I found very refreshing. I do not think you need to be really into fifteenth century Italian history in order to fully understand this book. She has followed the time line rather consistently, and she has not deviated too much from what is known about their lives and the event surrounding them. Of course, with the Borgias one always wonders what is true and what is malicious slander trickled down to us from those that were jealous of their power and influence.

I particularly loved how the Bower recreated the rather edgy, tense atmosphere that surrounded the Borgias and those associated with them. It made me feel as if people then lived on a knife’s edge, one wrong step and you could be the next person to be on the block (or to be given the cup).  This is a great book for those who are into fast paced books with a touch of feminine sensibilities (or a lot if you happen to be male).  I enjoyed it and I think someone who is looking to escape to fifteenth century Italy and be privy to the intrigues and workings of the most powerful family in Rome during those times should definitely give Sins of the House of Borgia a try.

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Economics Student by day, classical singer by night. My hobbies are: painting, drawing, gardening, embroidery, photography, and learning how to play the piano.