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Book Review: In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

Three possible portraits of Lucrezia Borgia: Idealised Portrait of a Courtesan as Flora by Bartolomeo Veneto, ca. 1520; Lucrezia as St. Catherine, from Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria by Bernardino di Betto (Pinturicchio), 1492-94; and Portrait of a Young Lady by Bartolomeo Veneto, ca. 1500-10. (Image via The Collector.Com:

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In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

The book cover for In the Name of the Family uses a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia as the backdrop for the book title and author's name.

Genre: Historical Fiction (Adult)

Publisher: Random House Trade

Year Published: 2018

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchase

My Rating: ☕️☕️☕️☕️

Book Summary: In the Name of the Family

“It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womanizer and master of political corruption, is now on the papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged twenty-two–already three times married and a pawn in her father’s plans–is discovering her own power. And then there is his son Cesare Borgia, brilliant, ruthless, and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with Machiavelli that gives the Florentine diplomat a master class in the dark arts of power and politics. What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince. But while the pope rails against old age and his son’s increasingly erratic behavior, it is Lucrezia who must navigate the treacherous court of Urbino, her new home, and another challenging marriage to create her own place in history. Sarah Dunant again employs her remarkable gifts as a storyteller to bring to life the passionate men and women of the Borgia family, as well as the ever-compelling figure of Machiavelli, through whom the reader will experience one of the most fascinating–and doomed–dynasties of all time.”

From the book description on

My Review: ☕️☕️☕️☕️

This book took me a while to read because it demanded more of my attention than I could give it when I started it back in January 2020, for various reasons. Also, one of the characters contracts an essentially untreatable (at the time) illness partway through the book, which was a bit too much for me in the pre-vaccination times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it’s a testament to how vividly Dunant draws these characters and this period of history that I could set this book aside for 18 months, pick it up again last week, and immerse myself in the story without feeling like I had been dumped into the company of strangers or forgotten where I was in the plot.

This was my first Dunant. I picked up because I had seen several reviews calling her one of the best historical fiction writers of our time, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It won’t be the last.

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