A few years ago I read Sarah Dunant’s Blood & Beauty, which I found to be an engaging read with atmospheric settings. So, going into The Family, I was already familiar with the Borgia family and other historical characters and the Italian Renaissance background.
This novel was the author’s last piece of fictional work and he died before the manuscript was finished. The book was released posthumously. The manuscript was completed by Carol Gino, the author’s companion.
The style of writing is down to earth and lucid from start to finish. I could not tell at which point the change of authorship takes place.
In some parts it seems the author is so zealous in trying to present the fatherly side of Rodrigo Borgia that it comes across as forced, especially when his cruel and calculating plans using his children as pawns speak much louder. It seems to me that this character often tries to rationalize his ambitions, greed and lust by pretending that these are not contradictory to his religious faith. But understandably, under the immense political pressures that come from sovereign states and papal states alike, above all, from his archrival Cardinal della Rovere who constantly breathes down his neck, he has his reasons to scheme and plot.
Cesare Borgia is portrayed to be vengeful, ultra ambitious and wicked, but then his sexual obsession with his sister Lucrezia is made out to be his only redeeming trait, which is no redeeming trait at all.
Lucrezia is perhaps the least deranged of the Borgias. Her character is also the most credible.
All in all, it was a good read. I’m giving it 3.5 stars, rounded up.