The poor standard of editing evident throughout the book unfortunately does nothing to help Frieda's case. The whole thing is in desperate need of a copyeditor to make sense of the atrocious number of misspellings, typos, grammatical errors, misused words, nonsensical sentence fragments, poor wording and difficult-to-follow run-on sentences. It's more than just a few simple proofreading oversights; the book is riddled with serious errors which ought to put any editor to shame.
In one instance the author mentions a letter "written The somewhat clumsy wording makes it appear that Frieda is referring to Lucrezia's brother-in-law; it's only five sentences later we discover that she's actually talking about the brother-in-law of Giulia Farnese. We also get nonsensical, incomplete sentence fragments such as the following: I can excuse an accidental double-parenthesis, a "Farmese" in place of "Farnese" or a "forge" where the author evidently meant "ford", but for so many glaring mistakes to go to print is unforgivable.
As an introduction to the politicking and the women of the Italian Renaissance, The Deadly Sisterhood isn't bad. Each of the eight women it deals with are fascinating individuals who are very much worth reading about, and if you're not familiar with Renaissance history you might well find it an interesting read.
However, I'm not a fan of Frieda's framing choices; the continual jumping between eight people, and between the individual and the big picture, results in a rather disjointed narrative and requires some patience from the reader. What's more, her uncritical acceptance of biased primary sources can be frustrating and causes me to take some of the things she says with a grain of salt. For all of Frieda's good intentions, there's a lot about this book that's problematic, and it's not necessarily one for a serious student of history. If you're looking to learn a little about some of the fantastic women of the Italian Renaissance, The Deadly Sisterhood is an okay starting point.
However, I'd urge anybody who picks it up to be wary of Frieda's willingness to take primary sources at face value, and to consider picking up some other books on the subject as well. After some consideration, I'm actually going to amend this. I do not recommend this book to anybody looking for an introduction to this time period or the women who inhabited it. Unless you're at least somewhat familiar with the women of Italian Renaissance, or you're going into the book prepared to take things with a grain of salt, chances are you're going to be misled -- and some of the reviews that are emerging are reflective of this.
There are people walking away from this book believing Frieda's bogus claims about Isabella d'Aragona's "madness", Caterina Sforza's vulgar retorts at Ravaldino, and so on, and it's really infuriating to see those kinds of falsehoods perpetuated. If you are looking for an introduction to some of the women of the Italian Renaissance, I'd recommend starting with Elizabeth Lev's excellent Tigress of Forli , a well-researched and readable biography of Caterina Sforza which picks apart the legends to examine the complex and fascinating woman behind them.
Caroline Murphy's The Pope's Daughter , while imperfect, is also a good choice -- it tells the story of Felice della Rovere, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Julius II and another amazing woman, who managed to attain wealth, influence and independence in a world dominated by men. View all 7 comments. It is possible I had too high expectations going into The Deadly Sisterhood , but the premise was fantastic: The Deadly Sisterhood also has, honestly, one of the best and most promising introduction I've ever read; but, unfortunately, in the end it turned out to be quite a disappointment.
Let's start with the positive things first. The book doesn't follow each woman separately, It is possible I had too high expectations going into The Deadly Sisterhood , but the premise was fantastic: The book doesn't follow each woman separately, but follows a chronological order instead, and I think this was a good choice. It was very interesting to see how many of their lives interweaved, how some of them interacted with each other, and how their actions and circumstances influenced the lives of the others.
It is also clear that Leonie Frieda did quite a lot of research on the time period, and, while I knew some of these women, others were almost completely unknown to me, and now I can definitely say I know more about them. Unfortunately, the rest of the book did not convince me. My main problem was that, while there are some intriguing informations about the women, I had the feeling the focus was never entirely on them.
It is likely this was due to the fact that there is very little known about some of these women: The author also spent too much time talking about Lorenzo il Magnifico and Cesare Borgia, and, while it is without a doubt that both are very interesting figures, having so many pages focused solely on them seemed out of place and useless.
I also found Frieda's partiality annoying sometimes. While it is understandable and even also inevitable that she should prefer some women, I think she exaggerated where Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella d'Este were concerned: I can't imagine readers who admire Isabella will enjoy this portrayal of her.
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For these reasons I can't give The Deadly Sisterhood more than 2 stars, but I am very sorry because I had been really looking forward to this book. Frieda's biography of Catherine de Medici was much more enjoyable, so maybe try reading this one instead if you are interested in the subject. After reading the enlightening The Borgias: The Hidden History , I can no longer respect another book in which the same old salacious stories about the Borgia family are repeated.
She does much the same thing when relating the history of Caterina Sforza. Frieda repeats the most famous tale about Caterina, in which Caterina supposedly lifts up her skirts and shows her genitals to Orsi rebels while under siege at Ravaldino in response to the rebels threatening her son with death, shouting that she has the capability of making more sons. The origin of this tale is one Galeotto Manfredi, taken from a letter he wrote to Lorenzo de' Medici, but the funny thing is, no other witness to the Ravaldino siege included this vulgar story in their description of the proceedings.
Even so, Niccolo Machiavelli decided to repeat this version of events in his Discourses because it suited the general opinion of Caterina's character. The goal of the book, to describe the lives of eight of the most powerful and influential women of the Italian peninsula in the fifteenth century, was a grand one.
It's execution, however, fell quite short of the mark. In trying to define these women by describing the world around them, their families, their lineage and history, the geography in which they lived and the events which shaped them, the women themselves disappeared into simplistic and roughly-sketched caricatures of who they truly were. Going into the book, I was already familiar with Lucrezia Borgia, Giulia Farnese, and Caterina Sforza, thanks to the more-comprehensive and better-written books I mentioned above, but had less familiarity with Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a savvy and influential politician, Clarice Orsini, the wife of Lorenzo de' Medici who was overshadowed by her mother-in-law Lucrezia Tonabuoni, Isabella and Beatrice d'Este, sisters, rivals, and fashion plates as well as cultural and political icons, and Isabella d'Aragona, the unhappy and unfortunate Duchess of Milan.
Sadly, I can't say I'm any more familiar with them now than I was before reading the book as the biographies of these women were so broadly-drawn as to be nearly useless; I think I could've learned as much from Wikipedia. Not to mention, to judge by her treatment of Lucrezia Borgia and Caterina Sforza, I have a hard time believing that the histories of the other women in this book were objectively written; I doubted and took with a grain of salt nearly every sentence I read.
From what I can see, there has been no new research done to write this book--it's simply a rehash of what other chroniclers have written over the centuries with no attempt to either verify or refute any of the information given by those sources--and while I can say that the writing itself is very engaging and lively which is why I tacked on that half star to the rating , I can't say that I'm impressed with what the writing is saying. In the end, I found the overall mocking, gossipy, biased tone to be extremely off-putting and I wouldn't recommend this book to any serious student of history, nor would I recommend it as an introductory text to the era as I believe it would do more harm than good and simply continue to spread misinformation.
View all 4 comments. Mar 19, Nikki rated it liked it Shelves: Without looking for it, I found four typos in casual reading. Just got approved for a digital review copy of this book - Woo Hoo!!! Oct 23, Carolynn rated it did not like it Shelves: I've only listed seven names - for the life of me I can't think of the eighth, and none of them were princesses, either: I think this must have been pitched in the middle of 'Borgia'-fever [you think the series is great? Otherwise I cannot see why something so sloppy has been published e. Also Frieda is unapologetically pro-Alexander Borgia [pg ] which does suggest some link to the series.
If this was a novel she would have got away with it, almost. Like other readers, I'm not entirely sure what Isabella d'Este ever did to Leonie Frieda to merit the criticism flung in her direction e. What kind of crazy world are we living in when it becomes okay to judge long dead historical figures on their looks?? On the back Kathryn Hughes is quoted, from the 'Mail on Sunday', as saying 'this is a 'Girl's Own' version of the Italian Renaissance, full of bright, brash women, quite a lot of killing I have a lot of time for Hughes [she wrote a fabulous biography of George Eliot] and tbh this quote drew me in.
Now I'm left wondering if it's been doctored or massaged a touch, and oddly, this review is not on the 'Mail's' website So to sum up: Apr 10, Jaylia3 rated it really liked it. Note--My copy of this book is actually titled The Deadly Sisterhood: An unwieldy cast of characters drifts in and out of this book's chapters making it hard to keep track of them all, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book once I adopted a more relaxed attitude. It's packed with years of turbulent history told through up close and personal accounts of several prominent families, making the book as entertaining as a well wr Note--My copy of this book is actually titled The Deadly Sisterhood: It's packed with years of turbulent history told through up close and personal accounts of several prominent families, making the book as entertaining as a well written gossip magazine.
I didn't know much about the Italian Renaissance before so the book was an eye opener for me. Italy at this time was a collection of independent kingdoms each with its own distinct culture and set of wealthy nobles who schemed among themselves for power. Women are the focus of the book and though they didn't officially have a lot of political clout they managed to influence events anyway.
One of the most dramatic examples came near the beginning of the book when Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forli, tricked her husband's assassins into allowing her to take refuge in a strategically placed fortress, giving her the means to run them off. When the mob threatened to kill her son if she didn't surrender Caterina stood on a high balcony and lifted her skirts to show them in the most graphic way that murdering her older children would be futile because she already had another on the way.
The mob that hoped to overthrow her family fled. While all the women profiled had fascinating lives, that story stuck in my mind and every time Caterina came back into the narrative I sat up and paid special attention. Mar 02, Hester rated it did not like it Shelves: I really, really wanted to like this book.
I pushed through the purple prose of the prologue because the stories are just fascinating. But after page , I had to stop. Pages , Frieda writes about the Italians were prejudiced against the Spaniards, especially the Catalans. Then she refers to the Catalans as marranos. She wrote in the footnote that " Marrano was the highly derogatory, largely anti-Semitic term used to describe the Valencian people. Marrano refer I really, really wanted to like this book.
Marrano referred to Iberian Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism, but still secretly practiced Judaism. When people said the Borgias were Marranos, they were calling them either crypto-Jews or descendants of Jews. This was an explicit call to anti-Semitism. Writing otherwise is either ignorant or mealy-mouthed. I will give the author the benefit of the doubt, and assume she was ill-informed.
Unfortunately, that means there is no reason for me to finish the book. Feb 24, Bmeyer rated it it was ok. I really wanted this book to be great, and as long as you go in to it looking for an admirable historical retelling of these women's fathers, brothers, husbands, and lovers then you have a gem on your hands, but it's not what I was looking for. I had hoped Frieda would have more information about the 8 women the book proports to be about as Caterina Sforza's life always sounds so fascinating.
A warrior, alchemist, scholar who is also a woman that lived during the Italian Renaissance? I want to k I really wanted this book to be great, and as long as you go in to it looking for an admirable historical retelling of these women's fathers, brothers, husbands, and lovers then you have a gem on your hands, but it's not what I was looking for. I want to know more!
But honestly there just wasn't enough historical meat on these women to dedicate a book to them and it leaves me wondering why the author attempted it. Jun 28, Alexandra rated it really liked it Shelves: Not a lady-assassins novel, but a history book about the role of eight significant women in Unknown.
There were a number of egregious editing issues, which really annoyed me. More significantly, the Not a lady-assassins novel, but a history book about the role of eight significant women in Unknown. More significantly, the book falls into the trap that many such history books do. They're trying to write a book about the women, who have largely been ignored by contemporary and modern historians Even if there are occasional mentions of "oh, and he was Duchess Blah's son".
It was frustrating to have the women seem to be ignored in their own book. Frieda focusses on eight women, some of whom I'd heard of - Lucrezia Borgia, of course - and others I hadn't heard of - of course. It covers the height of the Italian Renaissance, from to She discusses their births and marriages and deaths, their children and often multiple husbands, as well as the roles they played in politics - both consciously and as marital pawns - and in the artistic and cultural milieu.
Actually that last was the bit that, surprisingly, got least attention; I would have thought that the women would have played greater roles as patrons. Perhaps Frieda was more interested in discussing the political aspect, which is definitely at the forefront of her interests here. Despite the problems mentioned above - and that sometimes the language was a bit too snarky; I don't need to be reminded that one of the Isabellas apparently got quite fat, unless that contributed to how people treated her - I did enjoy reading this, and I am very pleased to know more about these women of important families who themselves managed to do important and significant things.
The Deadly Sisterhood: Eight Princesses of the Italian Renaissance by Leonie Frieda
Jan 24, Nancy rated it it was amazing. It was a time when political disputes were often solved by the dagger. Women as well as men played a significant role in this turbulent time: Lucrezia Burnabuoni, who helped her son Lorenzo d'Medici rule Florence; Caterina Sforza, who tricked her husband's assassins into letting into the for The Pageantry and Brutality of the Renaissance The Renaissance was a time of contradictions: Lucrezia Burnabuoni, who helped her son Lorenzo d'Medici rule Florence; Caterina Sforza, who tricked her husband's assassins into letting into the fortress of Ravaldino where she held them off and overcame the rebels; the sisters, Isabella and Beatrice d'Este, first ladies of the rival kingdoms of Mantua and Milan; Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI; and more.
A colorful cast of characters skilfully brought to life. This well-researched book reads almost like a historical novel. The setting has all the elements of romance and intrigue, and the ladies who ruled the Italian peninsula were strong women whose lives were full of political intrigue, violence, and romance. The author does an excellent job of showing them to us as real people with loves, hates, and fears.
It does take concentration to read the book. I found the Italian names confusing in the beginning, but I gradually got used to them. There are a great many characters with the same or almost identical names. However, it's worth the trouble to sort them out. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy history, or even if you love a good story. This is not an easy, light book, but it is well worth reading. I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program. There is nothing I like better than reading about empowered women who fought against the restrictions of their time.
So, when I heard about The Deadly Sisterhood more than a year ago, I immediately put it on my wish list. And I was thrilled when I was able to read an advance copy. The Deadly Sisterhood is mainly about eight women from the Italian Renaissance. And while the focus is on these eight women, we do hear about others.
The main point of this book was to see the lasting legacies the women There is nothing I like better than reading about empowered women who fought against the restrictions of their time. The main point of this book was to see the lasting legacies the women of this time left: The boldness of these women showed. When the last of the eight women featured here died - Isabella d'Este - with her died an end of an era. An era where women where able to take control, and even manipulate to gain power and status.
After the death of Isabella, the world in which she lived changed, and became a place she and her contemporary women would have felt stifled in.
One of the women featured in this book is Caterina Sforza. I had read a fantastic biography about her last year, but was still thrilled that she was included here. The Deadly Sisterhood is highly recommended to those interested in the Italian Renaissance and women's history. How appropriate that I finish it during Women's History Month.
View all 3 comments. Mar 16, Joan added it. In the Italian Renaissance - Women in the Italian Renaissance This is an excellent read for anyone desiring to learn more about this period, understanding that most books on this era have the same problems. Although this book is entitled to bring a new facet of the women who played important parts during these tim In the Italian Renaissance - Women in the Italian Renaissance This is an excellent read for anyone desiring to learn more about this period, understanding that most books on this era have the same problems.
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Although this book is entitled to bring a new facet of the women who played important parts during these times, there is less about the women and more about the men who affect their lives. Although the author probably historically chronicled the events, it still becomes a little difficult to keep everything straight and the names are particularly confusing.
I think it is just a fact for those who are just educating self about this age. I think the book is well written and I recommend it to all those who enjoy historical genre. I've always loved history, but I've never really gotten into Italian History after Christianity entered the picture. Frieda helped me learn to appreciate the Italian Renaissance and the smart conniving women who shaped it.
The information is pretty straight forward with no hedging or "interpretations" or guessing games. There is definitely no tweaking history here. The only thing that brought down the rating for me was the inconsistency. At times it felt like I was being told a story, and at oth I've always loved history, but I've never really gotten into Italian History after Christianity entered the picture.
At times it felt like I was being told a story, and at others it felt like I was being led past a line of really boring men spouting off facts whenever I passed. All in all it was a great look at history and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this time. May 16, Linda rated it it was ok. This was more "these women lived at the same time as a bunch of men who did much more interesting things". Tell me more about Clarice Orsini Medici instead of spending 30 pages on the Pazzi conspiracy. If I wanted to learn more about that I'd pick up a book on the subject.
Likewise with Lucrezia Borgia, who regularly gets shoved aside to make place for her brother Cesare. Poor Clarice Orsini fares even Ehhh. Poor Clarice Orsini fares even worse: Why even include her then? Another thing that bothered me was the downright catty tone the author employed. We get bashed over the head with the fact that Isabella D'Este was fat and not as pretty as her sister in law Lucrezia Borgia. Did she really need to be called "rotund" and whatnot every time she is mentioned?
Other people also get judged on how they looked. Lastly, I had trouble keeping track of who was who. The sequence of the book is semi-chronological but it hops forwards and backwards in time depending on who is the focus. The problem is that these women lived roughly at the same time, making the 'storylines' blend together and ending with a confusing jumble.
It would have been better if the author had just focused much more clearly on one woman at the time, without going off on a tangent about what another woman was doing at the same time. Oh, and also they were not "princesses". It's an introduction to the subject but it's way too confusing to recommend. Harper really went for presentation on this book: Guess where they skimped? If you picked editing, you'd be right. The first third of the book has a surprising number of typos for such an otherwise well-packaged book, mostly missing words, which gets annoying after the first three or so.
There are fairly confusing sections, which, granted, it was a confusing time period. But you will learn more about Cesare Borgia than you would expect from a book a Harper really went for presentation on this book: But you will learn more about Cesare Borgia than you would expect from a book about a group of women in a specific period of history, a lot of the battles blur into irrelevancy, one woman is going mad in one paragraph, but is described as a force to be reckoned with a short time later, etc.
Rather a lot of them. Reader, she does not approve and it will be mentioned with monotonous and possibly, enraging frequency.
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So why is this not a one star review? Reader, I waffled, there are some interesting historical tidbits and chapters and I did find some things that I want to follow up on. But I cannot recommend it as is. It had such promise. Jul 05, Rebecca rated it it was ok Shelves: I picked this book up, drawn by its emphasis on the key women of the Renaissance era. The author rushes through events without fully explaining contexts - leading to a bewildering succession of marriages, murders, invas I picked this book up, drawn by its emphasis on the key women of the Renaissance era.
The author rushes through events without fully explaining contexts - leading to a bewildering succession of marriages, murders, invasions and battles, yet more names and you've already forgotten who was on which side and what these conflicts were about in the first place. And that's before I mention the typos. It would appear that this book was rushed into publication as there are multiple typographic errors - in some cases there are sentences where a word appears to be missing as the sentences themselves don't quite make sense.
I did learn a few new things from this book and it has made me want to learn more about the era, but as I said, it feels rushed and nowhere near as good a book as it could have been. Feb 20, Stephanie rated it really liked it. Women were cast as saints or sinners, leaving little room for complexity or gray areas. This presents particular difficulties for all who now try to weigh the evidence for a more balanced approach, including the rather humdrum everyday life that most women led.
The biographies of saintly women, moreover, tend to emphasize restraint and otherworldliness, not necessarily the stuff of great drama. Frieda has taken on an ambitious project, treating women of the Aragona, Borgia, Este, Gonzaga, Medici, della Rovere, and Sforza families during a tumultuous period of shifting alliances and rulers, French invasions of the Italian peninsula, and almost constant warfare.
Caterina Sforza perfectly embodies the connections Frieda delineates, born into one house, and married into three others. But the menfolk remain largely the protagonists, as we learn about how the women react to being married off, to being left holding the fort when husbands go off to war, or to widowhood or exile. Let me add just a few caveats. Life at court was a constant performance, whether played in person or by letter.
Letters, like biographies, cannot be taken at face value.
The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427–1527
Second, princely splendor was expected. Significant in ambassadorial reports are comments on what people of both sexes wore and exchanged as gifts. While many of the women Frieda writes about were related Sisterhood , one should not make assumptions about what that meant Deadly? Rivalry between people, cities, languages, art forms and media was a fundamental Renaissance paradigm and the courts where these women lived provided ideal arenas for competition, as courtiers of both sexes vied for favors with those in power.
Occasionally Frieda isolates competition between individual women, without developing this broader context. Pitting one woman against another is a great strategy to marginalize their conflict. Women were not judged by the same standards as men. Nevertheless, readers will find parallels here for issues that women continue to face today.