But there are two sides to every story.
Lucrezia Borgia is the only woman in history to have serve as the head of the Catholic Church. She successfully administered several of Renaissance Italy's most thriving cities, founded one of the world's first credit unions, and was a generous patron of the arts. She was mother to a prince and to a cardinal. She was a devoted wife to the Prince of Ferrara, and the lover of the poet Pietro Bembo. She was a child of the renaissance and, in many ways, the world's first modern woman.
In this richly imagined novel, Nobel laureate Dario Fo reveals Lucrezia's humanity, her passion for life, her compassion for others, and her skill at navigating around her family's evildoings. The Borgias are unrivalled for the range and magnitude of their political machinations and opportunism. Fo's brilliance rests in his rendering their story as a shocking mirror image of the uses and abuses of power in our own time. Lucrezia herself becomes a model for how to survive and rise above those abuses. Part Wolf Hall, part House of Cards, The Pope's Daugther will appeal to readers of historical fiction and of contemporary fiction alike and will delight anyone fascinated by Renaissance Italy.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-31
- Reviewer: Staff
Nobel laureate Fo explores Renaissance Italy through the eyes of one of its most notorious women in this slow-moving novel. Legend has it that Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, was an unparalleled beauty who seduced and threatened her way into positions of power in league with her brother, Cesare, a high-ranking cardinal. But Fo's portrayal of Lucrezia paints her in a much more sympathetic light: she's an independent thinker, "tossed into the gaping maw of financial and political interests both by her father and her brother, without a qualm," though she's not content to merely serve as a pawn in her family's power plays. Instead of a temptress who was complicit in the murder of one of her three husbands, she's portrayed as a woman who loved deeply and paid dearly for her father and brother's political machinations. Over the course of a short life, Lucrezia acts as administrator of several major cities, a financial reformer, and even, temporarily, the head of the Catholic Church. Her legendary love affair with the poet Pietro Bembo is rendered as a star-crossed love. Unfortunately, this awkward translation renders Fo's prose stilted and didactic. Traces of his biting wit remain in the dialogue, where sarcastic banter between Lucrezia and her diabolical relatives is as snappy as it doubtless was in the original Italian, but it's not enough to elevate the story above its tedious narrative passages. (Aug.)