I feel extremely lucky to have a signed first edition of In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant. (Thanks to Topping & Company in Ely)
In the Name of the Family starts in a setting where Borgias are ruling nearly whole Italy. Pope Alexander sits on papal throne, while his son Cesare is craving for more power than his share… Lucrezia, the daughter of the pope is being sent to a remote city to marry with her third husband. She was somehow the main character in the story, stepping to a marriage pact with a man unknown to her, her heart broken from what has happened in past.
I am not a huge fan of historical novels, but I love to read a piece of historical fiction from time to time. Borgias are a scandalous family in Italy, rising to power and leaving their mark in history. When it is Sarah Dunant who writes about them, the expectation will be high. I wanted to read this book, thinking I will enjoy it truly. I found out that In the Name of the Family is part of a series of books, successor to Blood and Beauty, which finishes where this one starts. Maybe this is part of the reason I didn’t like this book so much. I am really annoyed that the fact The Blood and Beauty covering the period before this book is never mentioned anywhere on this book! I have Blood and Beauty in my library and I wish I’d knew so I’d read it before this. Parts of Lucrezia’s life and the Pope felt missing, probably because I haven’t read the beginning of the Borgia timeline from Dunant.
I’ll give this book 3 stars out of 5. It has a nice pace when it starts and very well written however the story doesn’t have its own soul. It felt to me that the only character that has really been built was Lucrezia. Papa Borgias and Cesare are not fleshing out as characters. Pope Alexander.. Is he evil? Or just an old man? Can’t tell. Casere is hungry for more power, have lust and ambition- but that’s it. Machiavelli is barely there. Also the story moves in a journal-like way; telling the events in an order. It didn’t make me wonder what is going to happen next, but my main problem with this novel was the weak character building. Towards the end of the book I really got distracted. And I didn’t like the ending. It felt a bit rushed, especially the epilogue. I enjoyed the first half of the book much more than the second part. I don’t want to spoil and give out too much.
I think people who liked this book, might like this book: Sofia by Ann Chamberlin
This book has:
scores by the time this review is written.
My score: 3
hi Ova, I really enjoyed reading this review because Borgias is a family I am very interested in. Me and my husband watched the series more than I want to admit here. LOL! And I love it, of course Jeremy Irons might be a factor! I thought the series was really good, and when you say Pope Alexander and Cesare characters were not built well, it sounded like a shame, as they were the two best characters on the series, carrying it heavily to the end. Thanks again for this review, I am indeed a fan of historical fiction, so it was interesting for me you reviewed this famous book. Until later!
Hi Umut, Thanks for reading my review. Borgias are indeed a very interesting subject, especially when you think about pope having children…What a scandal!
Of course this is my personal take from the book, about Cesare and Alexander being weak as characters. You might want to give it a try if you are interested in this part of history 🙂