Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Gifted actor Edoardo Ballerini has the perfect voice to vivify the story of one of the most famous (or infamous, if you prefer) families in history - the Borgias.  Ballerini has received numerous Earphones Awards and has a list of outstanding screen credits including The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.   Few can bring history to life on the page as splendidly as Sarah Dunant, and few can give voice to it as compellingly as Edoardo Ballerini.  This audio edition of Blood & Beauty is a rare treat.

Now, some may think they’re familiar with the story of the Borgias but Dunant has a gift for catching revealing details oft overlooked by other authors, thus her story becomes an upclose and personal account - one that totally captures us.

We are transported to Rome at the end of the 15th century - it is a city marked not only by beauty but by corruption.  Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia has bought his way into the papacy, and he is a man of unbridled lust and greed.  He is Spanish in a city run by Italians, and he well knows it.  So he uses every tool at his command to gain what he wants, all the while involving and using his children in his machinations.

His eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter, Lucrezia,  are of the greatest use to him.  Cesare is a particularly compelling, haunting figure.  He does not stop at manipulating his own sister to gain his ends.  Lucrezia is a 12-year-old child when this story opens and we watch her  innocence fade, marry three times, and lose all traces of naivete.

Beauty & Blood is a remarkable literary achievement, thoroughly researched, beautifully presented.

- Gail Cooke

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