x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Book review: Sarah Dunant's latest novel tawdry, but also trite

Sarah Dunant's Blood and Beauty follows the lives of members of the Renaissance-era Italian clan the Borgias.

Blood and Beauty
Sarah Dunant
Virago Press

For those who are unaware, the Borgias were a particularly amoral clan who rose to become the most powerful family in Italy during the Renaissance era.

Recently, they've regained prominence as stars of the popular Assassin's Creed video games and as the eponymous subjects of a Jeremy Irons-fronted TV miniseries.

Adding to this diverse canon of works comes Sarah Dunant's latest book, which she contends is a historically accurate account of the Borgias' debauched behaviour.

The story starts as the family's patriarch, Rodrigo Borgia, bribes his way to win the papal ballot, becoming Pope Alexander VI. It goes on to recount their murderous attempts to maintain power.

As a representation of the era, Dunant's tale is probably spot-on, vividly capturing the moral decay of Rome and the power struggles within.

There are, however, plenty of gripes to overcome. Dunant has a cliche-riven writing style, while she also has a tendency to focus on the most sordid aspects of their lives. Mostly, this just makes for a trite and tawdry read.

* Hugo Berger