Italy 1502, Rodrigo Borgia has been Pope for eleven years and his family’s star continues to rise in Italy. His son Cesare is head of an army and is ruthlessly taking over many of Italy’s city states in the name of the Pope and Church. His daughter Lucrezia is also playing her part in this take over of Italy. She is to marry for the third time to Duke Elect Alfonso d’ Este of Ferrara, thus bringing Ferrara into control of the Papal States.
Into the orbit of this powerful family comes Niccolo Machiavelli, a diplomat from the state of Florence employed to try and keep Cesare as a friend rather than a foe. Spending time with Cesare, Machiavelli gets tutored in the art of warfare, power, politics and discovers the lengths Cesare will go to in the name of the Pope. What Machiavelli learns during his meetings with Cesare will later be the foundation to his seminal work The Prince.
Renaissance Italy is place of political turmoil, a board in which the French, Spanish and the Borgia’s are all fighting for power. Become swept up in this tumultuous period of history where everything is to play for in a land of beauty.
In The Name Of The Family is probably the perfect novel for me, I studied this era of Italy’s history as part of my Art History Degree so reading this felt I was visiting old friends, and familiar places.
Sarah Dunant’s research and knowledge of this period is second to none. Her attention to detail in her descriptions of places and settings is so detailed and precise that you feel you are there, you can see what the characters see; the figures in frescos and the Duke of Urbino’s studiolo are brought to life. The same attention to detail goes into her characters, she has a talent in being able to breath new life into them and make them accessible. The Borgia Family is one that has been written about many times over the years both in fiction and non fiction. But Dunant stays away from the popular myths surrounding the family and instead humanises them and just tells a story without all the gossip and rumours, rather like what Hilary Mantel has done for Thomas Cromwell.
The time period this book is set in has so many opportunities for a writer as it was a time of great change in Italy, with some very big characters. Sarah Dunant’s writing style engages the reader, from the beginning and her use of language makes this an easy and enjoyable novel to read. The plot moves a long quickly and has something for everyone, intrigue, violence, romance, passion, death and political machinations, as well as beautiful settings.
Sarah Dunant has previously written novels set in Renaissance and with this new book she has to be one of our countries leading historical authors. It was after reading her first Renaissance novel The Birth of Venus that I finally decided to enrol at the Open University for a degree in Art History. If you enjoyed this novel I urge you to try her previous books, like this they are beautifully written, full of detail and brilliant plot lines.
In The Name Of The Family is a masterpiece of a novel, with all the beauty of a Renaissance painting, full of detail that will transport you to sixteenth century Italy. Sarah Dunant captures the true zeitgeist of the period, this is a must read for fans of historical fiction, an outstanding novel.