Review: The Vatican Princess-C.W. Gortner*


Ooh, I love a fictional account of controversial ladies from history and when I saw this novel come up on Bookbridgr, I was THERE. In my mind, Lucrezia Borgia is up there with Catherine de Medici as one of the most interesting of European women; I’ve read biographies of both, but the problem is that women went through their lives largely undocumented until relatively recently. This is where good fiction can come in, to try and help us make sense of a time, a place, a life.

And what a life Lucrezia Borgia led! The pawn of her wildly ambitious father (who became Pope, despite a slew of acknowledged illegitimate children) and brothers, Lucrezia was forced to marry according to family whim- always knowing that her husband could be murdered if her relatives ceased to find him useful. As well as this, many rumours sprang up about the Borgias, with Lucrezia at the heart of them: she was a poisoner, an adulteress- including rumours that she had affairs with her father and brothers. Game of Thrones had nothing on the Vatican at the time of the Borgias, if you believe the whispers.

But what this novel does is it gives a human face to its heroine. Yes, sometimes it does border on being a bit.. Lannister occasionally, but it kind of made sense in the writhing hotbed of an unnaturally close family. It can be a uncomfortable read at times (there is a passage in which Lucrezia is brutally attacked which made me wince), but there were also moments of humanity and humour- I believed in the characters and I enjoyed the story. I was gripped by the intrigue and, although I knew how  the story ended, I desperately willed  that there would a different outcome.

As a historical fiction buff, I loved this. I could vividly picture sumptuous papal apartments and characters who felt realistically trapped in a huge, unimaginable web of intrigue. I couldn’t put it down.

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