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Biography Review: The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda

The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women and Power in Renaissance Italy by Leonie Frieda

Review copy courtesy of HarperCollins

Synopsis from Goodreads
The book is one of drama on a grand scale, a Renaissance epic, as Christendom emerged from the shadows of the calamitous 14th century. The sweeping tale involves inspired and corrupt monarchs, the finest thinkers, the most brilliant artists, and the greatest beauties in Christendom.

Here is the story of eight of its most remarkable women, who are all joined by birth, marriage and friendship and who ruled for a time in place of their men-folk: Lucrezia Turnabuoni (Queen Mother of Florence, the power behind the Medici throne), Clarice Orsini (Roman princess, feudal wife), Beatrice d'Este (Golden Girl of the Renaissance), Caterina Sforza (Lioness of the Romagna), Isabella d'Este (the Acquisitive Marchesa), Giulia Farnese ('la bella', the family asset), Isabella d'Aragona (the Weeping Duchess) and Lucrezia Borgia (the Virtuous Fury). The men play a secondary role in this grand saga; whenever possible the action will be seen through the eyes our eight heroines.

These eight women experienced great riches, power and the warm smile of fortune, but they also knew banishment, poverty, the death of a husband or the loss of one or more of their children. As each of the chosen heroines comes to the fore in her turn, she is handed the baton by her 'sister' and Leonie Frieda recounts the role each woman played in the hundred-year drama that is THE DEADLY SISTERHOOD.

 Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


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 You know what? I was really looking forward to this book because a) I love Renaissance b) I enjoy reading book about powerful women in history, but unfortunately The Deadly Sisterhood failed to deliver coherent and strong stories despite the massive research the author so obviously undertook.

I've read a lot of biographies at some point in my life, and this one still comes to mind, because it absolutely blew me away.

Andre Maurois brought George Sand to life. She was a living, breathing woman to me, I fell in love with her and after that read everything I could find written by her. She was an astounding, powerful woman.

The Deadly Sisterhood reads like a dry recollection of many events with few interesting sparks in between. It's main failure is that it's disjointed - each woman's life is not a separate part of the book, - instead you just catch glimpses of them here and there among a huge mass of details, names and events dumped on us in between.

The second offense that made me struggle even more to engage in this book is that the recollection of events is not linear. The Deadly Sisterhood is separated into few time frames of Renaissance, that's true, but we are still jumping from past to present and back, and I think this could have been simply avoided by telling us about each woman separately. I think the effort to do so was there, but the author got buried under sheer amount of what happened, the interactions between the heroines of the book, their relatives and their husbands.

Regrettably I would not recommend this book, because I struggled to get through it. The only positive thing about my reading The Deadly Sisterhood was that it made me want to find out more about its formidable heroines.

* * *
Очень меня разочаровала эта биография сильных и могущественных женщин Возрождения.

Я в своё время начиталась прекрасных биографий Виноградова и Моруа, и после них эта книга читается совершенно сухо и неудачно.

Во первых, жизнь героинь не поделена на разные главы или части книги, а скорее собрана по определённым датам возрождения, поэтому какой-то собранной летописи жизни каждой из них не выходит. Собирать что произошло с ними приходится по кусочкам, продираясь сквозь бесчисленное количество мужей, друзей и родственников, войн, интриг и убийств, что очень утомляет.

Автор как мне кажется оказалась просто погребена под количеством исторических деталей, которые она храбро попыталась запротоколировать в стиле "хоть чуть-чуть, но обо всём".

Вторая проблема, с которой я столкнулась, продираясь через книгу - это временные рамки. Если вы думаете, что будете читать о линейной истории - из прошлого в будущее, то этого не происходит. Мы прыгаем из прошлого в будущее и опять в прошлое.

В общем, грязно, неудобоваримо и скучно. Единственная радость - узнала о нескольких героинях, о которых интересно будет накопать информации побольше. А так, не теряйте время.

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