Skip to main content

Review: Murder of a Medici Princess, by Caroline Murphy

Isabella de Medici, a daughter of the most powerful family in 16th century Italy, was the sixteenth-century version of a socialite. Married to Paolo Giordano Orsini, she chose to live apart from him, holding parties at her home in Florence and taking on her husband’s cousin Troilo as her lover while her Paolo stayed in Rome. Isabella was also the favored daughter of Cosimo de Medici, one of the early modern period’s great social climbers. Later, in 1576, Paolo and Isabella’s older brother would conspire to have her murdered.

The book’s title is a bit misleading. The vast majority of the book is dedicated to Isabella’s life, as well as the fraught political situation in northern Italy at the time. Even so, there’s not much focus on what Isabella was like; yes, she loved parties and all of that, but we never see what Isabella was like as a person, really. However, she was known for having a sarcastic sense of humor. However, the author does a great job at describing 16th century life: what people ate, what they wore, and what they did for fun. It’s things like that that make history more interesting.

The murder, as such, disappointed me, however. Literally only 20 pages are devoted to the death of Isabella, and there’s not really much to go on here—how did Isabella really die? Who really killed her? The author doesn’t even try to hazard a guess here, so we’re left with more questions than answers; disappointing, in my opinion. I guess we’ll never know what truly happened at that remote country villa. In addition, the book is written in a very dry tone, and it doesn’t move at a smooth pace at times. Still, Isabella de Medici is an intriguing woman, unique in that she was able to make her own decisions in a world where women really didn’t have many options.


Serena said…
I think I'll skip this one. I have a hard time when authors can't make a commitment to a theory and write about it even if there is little evidence one way or the other.

Thanks for the honest review.
teabird said…
Sounds like the author need a hook for the title. Too bad she didn't follow through.
Steph said…
Eh, I might give this one a chance, if only because I find this period fascinating and haven't read as much as I like about it. But it's unfortunate that such an intriguing idea fell flat.
S. Krishna said…
I tried to read this book and could not get into it. I'm glad I didn't take the time to read it! Thanks for the review.
dolleygurl said…
This one will be a "we'll see". Thanks for the review.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…