I am a complete Borgia family novice. I knew very little about them and only began to research the family for the most brief of knowledge after I heard of the Showtime series.
I watched the show and I fell in love with Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia.
I wanted to devour as much information as I could get my hands on. I wanted to know about these historical figures and compare all the information so that maybe, somehow, I could grow to understand this brother and sister who lived 500 years ago.
And so I began by reading the historic fiction by Mario Puzo (best known for The Godfather). Puzo was fascinated by the Borgia's and thought them to be 'the original crime family'. Now, I don't know much about other families in the broad spectrum of history so I can't exactly compare and say, "Wow, Mr. Puzo was entirely correct. The Borgias were the original crime family." However, from the way Puzo wrote this book I can totally see how his opinion influenced the historical facts.
The story, very simply, tells the tale of the Borgia family. Their rise to fame and their fall from it. Puzo doesn't spend much time going into wordy details about the scenery or descriptions of battles. he spends even less time on the dialogue between characters and yet he paints a picture where I grew attached to the Borgia's and the relationships they had with one another.
Despite their sins that range (in the book) from incest to murder I grew to feel for these characters. The Pope, Rodrigo, does what he needs to keep control over the papal lands and seems willing to do anything. And yet... he seems to still love his children, even if he makes poor decisions pertaining to them along the way.
Lucrezia, the daughter and 'good girl' seems to try hard in keeping all happy. Her incestuous love for her brother I find... lovely. I know! I know it's wrong! But I love the two of them and how they seem to complete one another. If they were not brother and sister they would surely be considered a perfect couple. Neil Jordan, the creator of the Showtime series, takes a different approach to the siblings. In the show they aren't incestuous (yet) but he was quoted to say:
I kind of want them to be almost the ideal lovers if they were not brother and sister. In other words, they will never find a bride or a groom that would live up to their expectations having grown up with each other. [link]
I feel this describes them well historically and fictionally. Mind you, historically the two likely did not have an incestuous relationship but it was a rumor spread by their enemies. It's just Puzo's take on it and I feel it was written well.
Cesare is fiercely protective, something I can understand, and he is a force to be reckoned with. He might have not been the nicest guy but he certainly loved his family.
If you are unfamiliar with the Borgia family the book certainly could still be read and enjoyed. You won't be lost or confused, I assure you. If you know of their history, well, Puzo follows it pretty well although takes some creative license in filling out the plot. If you know of the family then you know how the Borgia power ended but that's another story and I won't give it away on here. I really enjoyed the book and didn't want to put it down. I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or crime.
Check out the book with the link below and to check out the show go here.