Return to Appreciating Literature
'In the Name of the Family' by Sarah Dunant.
For people wanting to gain an insight into life in medieval Italy during the time of the Borgias, this book will not disappoint. Sarah Dunant paints a vivid picture of the power-crazed Borgias and their reputation for cruelty and debauchery. We follow the lives of Pope Alexander V1, his brilliant, mercurial and unstable son, Cesare, and Alexander's daughter, Lucrezia. The author makes it very clear that she feels history has slandered and unfairly portrayed Lucrezia and paints her more as a victim of circumstances. Machiavelli's role in the book is primarily that of a reporter, rather than a central role.
We admired the extensive research carried out by Dunant, but with so many characters and places it made it rather a challenging and frustrating read and perhaps there was too much factual detail which got in the way of the story. It was commented that, apart from Lucrezia's husband, there was not enough development of the characters, and there was a feeling that language came secondary to the story. We debated whether it should have had the title of historical novel or novel.
For an author it must be problematic to work out exactly how much is owed to the dead in terms of accuracy and justice. Sarah Dunant is much acclaimed for her research and insight, and this came across in her book and whetted our appetites for more information about the period, but we were not entirely convinced that this was the great book it is held up to be.