Sarah Dunant continues on from Blood & Beauty, following the Borgias as they extend their power over the city states that made up Renaissance Italy.
As Catalan Pope Alexander VI Rodrigo Borgia consolidates his control over the Catholic church, his offspring extend the dynasty’s authority in the secular world – Cesare Borgia by battle, siege and subterfuge, Lucrezia Borgia by marriage and courtly influence in Ferrara.
This tale of complicated family relationships is set in Grace, Arizona, home to populations of peacocks, Hispanics and Native Americans, which co-exist comfortably in this remote mining town.
Thirty-something Codi returns to Grace to take care of her father, Doc Homer, who’s self-diagnosed the early stages of Alzheimers. Her younger sister Hallie has recently left Tucson to put her agricultural skills to better use in Nicaragua where US-backed Contras are fighting the Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan Revolution.
Back “home”, Codi reconnects with her High School world – some of it happy, most of it not. A strong environmental / ecological strand weaves around her rekindled relationship with Loyd Peregrina, a Native American she knew in her teenage years.
As the story progresses, Grace slowly starts to find herself less of the outsider she always felt herself to be.
No 2 in the series, and (eventually) Falco heads off to the Bay of Naples for a holiday with best friend Petronius and family, plus his own nephew, Larius. Oh, and an ulterior motive – the ongoing search for the scheming senators who fled Rome after their plot against Emperor Vespasian failed….
Getting hold of The Silver Pigs in itself comprised a mini-quest – requiring a request to retrieve it from Barbican Library stores. As an aside, I appreciate that shelf space is limited, but it is so frustrating that they can’t keep entire series available on the shelves. The same thing afflicts Robin Hobbs’ Farseer novels. But, at least the request/retrieval system is free and efficient.
What didn’t I like ? The cocky attitude and the socially superior male gaze. And then I realised it was a mechanism to show Falco’s failings – the swagger hiding the insecurities and loneliness of a single man in his early 30s.
Straight on to Shadows In Bronze!
(Although I am going to take the diversion into The Course of Honour straight after – Barbican Stores permitting.)
The Worst Journey in the World has been on my reading list for a long time.
It’s Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s account of the 1910-13 Nova Terra Expedition to Antarctica, where he was part of a three-man scientific research team that undertook the harrowing Winter Journey to collect the first specimens of Emperor Penguin eggs. This is The Worst Journey in the World of the title.
However the Nova Terra expedition is better known for the explorations undertaken by its leader, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, together with Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates, and Edgar Evans, who succeeded in reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it. All five men died on their journey back from the pole.
I had hesitated to embark upon The Worst Journey in the World, fearing that Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s autobiographical analysis of the expedition would be a heavy going account reflecting the attitudes of Empire and the Edwardian era.
Sara Wheeler‘s introduction to the Vintage Classic edition I read dissolved my concerns, and I found this to be a fascinating and heart breaking read.