The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.
They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century - as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers - they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes.
Five centuries after their fall - a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power - they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo, the Borgia who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare, the Borgia who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia, the Borgia as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil.
But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights. Stunning in scope, rich in telling detail, G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias is an indelible work sure to become the new standard on a family and a world that continue to enthrall.
©2013 G. J. Meyer (P)2013 Random House Audio
This is a fascinating, historical re-imaging of the Borgias. HOWEVER, it is not a book that you can listen to while doing something else. Because the author takes the time to fill in the background situation, you learn as much about the history of the Italian city-states as about the Borgias. This is very useful, because it puts the Borgias into the culture of the time, in order to understand both the charges against the Borgias and the brutal culture of the times, but also reasons that the charges were exaggerated beyond recognition. While some would find the background details interesting, I could understand frustration with those who just wanted to get to the main subject. It is also one of those books that might be easier read than listened to.
However, if you are a real history buff, and have the patience to listen with care, this is one of the finest histories of the politics of the Italian Renaissance I have come across. It has taken me a little longer than usual to finish, but I have never been bored and have enjoyed every minute.
Passionate book lover, passionate reader, lover of history, how will I read every book before I die ?
I have read a lot of books about the Borgias, and of all those on my bookshelf (actual volumes on the shelf, as well as audiobooks) this is far and away my favorite. I loved the author's approach, which for one thing takes the reader back to the very FIRST Borgia Pope (and here I didn't even realize that there WAS any other Borgia Pope than Rodrigo), and fills in all the lacunae which other authors have ignored. I found every detail fascinating because I really want to understand the events in Italy of this time period, and the details are what create a rich picture of the times for those of us who are looking back 1500 years. I also cannot imagine a more wonderful narrator for this book. He carried me along with him on this fascinating journey with his rich, mellifluous tones, and that was truly the icing on the cake, great marriage of narrator with material. If you are interested in the history of early Renaissance Italy, you should love this book !
Better than the TV show
I loved all the additional details regarding the Borja family. I enjoyed the writer's objectivity. It was as if he was a defense attorney for the Borgia family. He presented sound reason to illustrate why the Borgias were not the villians, of the Middle Ages.
This is a really nice history of the Borgias, combining lots of crunchy background details with intriguing ideas about the key players. As others have pointed out, this is mainly a defense of the Borgias.
Of course, nobody can make saints out of any of the families that played the power game in Renaissance Italy. Meyer's approach is simply to ask the valid question, "let's just assume that the Borgias were, generally, not monsters -- but just the normal sort of power-hungry egomaniacs who rose to power in that time and place? Can that theory be made consistent with the actual historical record?"
The answer seems to be yes ... or sort of ... more or less. Meyer quite properly rejects the usual fables about incest, orgies, sadism, and the 50 other shades of really, really dark grey which usually pass for historical facts about the Borgias. On the other hand, he can still only make sense of the Borgias by uncritically accepting all the other fables and stereotypes of all the other leading characters of the time, from the Ottomans to the Sforzas. Even then, Cesare comes off looking rather psychotic (but neither depraved nor foolish).
So, draw your own conclusion on the thesis. The book -- right or wrong -- seems to be a successful attempt to walk the line between fairly serious scholarship and entertainment
I am an avid eclectic reader.
G. J. Meyer has a clear and engaging writing style that makes it easy to listen too but there is a lot of information so one must listen carefully. The book is well-research and provides some food for thought. The author tried to exonerate Rodrigo Borgia (pope name-Alexander VI). Meyer discounts most of the stories ever recorded that are negative to the Borgia's reputations. He chooses the best possible interpretation of all surviving written evidence. But he does acknowledge some of the darker myths. Anyone interested in the great families of Renaissance Italy should consider this book. History buffs will enjoy this book. Enn Reitel does a great job of narrating the book.
"Great story... Impossible narration"
For story, it's great. For narration, it's in my bottom five audiobooks ever.
All of the Borgias were interesting in their own ways.
Somebody. Who. Can. Read. And. It. Doesn't.
Sound. Like. There. Is. A. Full. Stop. After. Every. Word. And.
No. Random. Pauses.
Please reissue this with a different narrator. Not only is the reading stilted, but there are obvious mispronunciations (beau-dlian library Oxford).
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