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Blood and Beauty: The Borgias; A Novel


Blood and Beauty: The Borgias; A Novel Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss the novel’s title, Blood and Beauty. Why do you think the author selected this title?

2. Sarah Dunant has trained as a historian and says that it is very important for her to get the facts right for the story to work. When you are reading the novel does it matter to you one way or another if it is “true” to history? Or is the fact that it is a good story more important?

3. How much do you think Lucrezia changes from the beginning of the novel to the end? Do you think she ultimately lost her love for—and her faith in—her family? Do you feel she truly found herself by the end of the book?

4. Lucrezia and Cesare have a very fraught relationship. At one point, Cesare comments: “[Lucrezia] is struggling to hate me as much as she loves me.” (322) Do you believe there is ever a time when they truly hate each other? Do you think Cesare acts out of love for Lucrezia—that he actually believes he is serving her best interests—or that he uses loving her as an excuse to carry out his own agenda? Do you think he might’ve been a better politicial if he could’ve let his feelings for her go?

5. Do you believe it’s true that in the Borgia world, kindness was equated with weakness? Why or why not?

6. Michelotto, Cesare’s trusted guard, is one of the most enigmatic characters in the book. He happily kills on command, but reaps no clearly visible benefit. What do you think his motivation was? Do you think he simply enjoyed being a part of each move on Cesare’s chessboard?

7. There are various examples of marriage, romance and sexual relationships in this novel. Based on your reading, what do you make of the attitudes about marriage during this time? What about attitudes regarding fidelity, sex and love? Do you think a woman’s main source of power at this time came from how well she could manipulate her marriage (or sexual relationship) to her own advantage?

8. At one point Cesare says to Jofré, “But remember. You have to know when to step out of the way, before you sink the dagger into the bull’s neck.” (214) This is a very interesting statement, given that the bull is the Borgia family symbol. Do you think in some ways, Cesare was acting against his family members (especially his father) under the guise of furthering the Borgia name? That not being his father’s favored child made him wish to take revenge as much as it made him want to win approval?

9. Do you believe it was Cesare who arranged for Juan’s death? Why or why not?

10. Sancia and Lucrezia were both in somewhat similar situations (thrust into marriages based foremost on the political advantages the matches offered their families), yet their reactions to their circumstances were quite different. Do you think this strengthens or weakens their bond? Consider also that both women fell for the other’s brother in your discussion.

11. In your opinion, who was the true master in the political maneuverings of the Borgia family, Rodrigo or Cesare? Why?

12. How do you think each member of the Borgia family viewed God? For a family whose power came from the Church, were you surprised by their seeming lack of piety? Or do you think they truly believed God was behind them in their goal to unite Italy under their banner?

13. What did you think of the conclusion of the novel? Did it turn out as you expected? Were you satisfied?

14. At the close of the novel, Burchard reflects, “ ‘The Pope ran from window to window to see her. Because he misses his daughter so.’ That is what those who saw it will say about the moment . . .” (500) Do you think that much of what we consider historical fact has been shaped by impressions, by gossip, by what people believed—and said—about a particular moment, rather than what was actually true? If so, how accurate do you think our image of the Borgia family is today? And how do you feel differently having read the novel?

15. There has been a great deal written about the Borgias, not to mention television shows, movies and even video games centered around them. What do you think is so fascinating about this particular family and the era in which they lived? Was there anything in the book that surprised you?

Product Details

The Borgias; A Novel
Dunant, Sarah
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
7.9 x 5.1 x 1.1 in 0.9 lb

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Blood and Beauty: The Borgias; A Novel Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.00 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Random House Trade Paperbacks - English 9780812981612 Reviews:
"Review" by , “A brilliant portrait of a family whose blood runs ‘thick with ambition and determination’....The Machiavellian atmosphere — hedonism, lust, political intrigue — is magnetic. With so much drama, readers won’t want the era of Borgia rule to end.”
"Review" by , “In Blood and Beauty, Dunant follows the path set by Hilary Mantel with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Just as Mantel humanized and, to an extent, rehabilitated the brilliant, villainous Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII, Dunant transforms the blackhearted Borgias and the conniving courtiers and cardinals of Renaissance Europe into fully rounded characters, brimming with life and lust....Dunant illuminates the darkened narrative of the Borgia record, reviving stained glass with fresh light, refreshing the brilliance of the gold and blue panes history has marred without dulling the blood-red that glows everywhere around them.”
"Review" by , “British author Sarah Dunant is the reigning queen of the historical novel set in Renaissance Italy....This novel will be most rewarding for those with a keen taste for history and a willingness to stick with a lengthy story with no real heroes but plenty of fascinating and really bad behavior.”
"Review" by , “Compelling female players have been a characteristic of Dunant’s earlier novels, and this new offering is no exception....The members of this close-knit family emerge as dynamic characters, flawed but sympathetic, filled with fear and longing.”
"Review" by , “Dazzling...a triumph on an epic scale...filled with rich detail and page-turning drama.”
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