Vojvotkinja (2011)
Vojvotkinja (2011)
3.89 of 5 Votes: 1
Mono i manjana
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Just before Barbara of Austria wed the handsome Duke of Ferrara, she is warned by a hairdresser that her soon to be husband poisoned his ex-wife. What a way to start a wedding. With every intention of being a dutiful wife, Barbara dismisses the whispers around her but when she is forced to endure a thrashing at the hands of the Duke for a minor misdemeanour, the whispers become a roar and she resolves to get to the bottom of Lucrezia d'Medici's death if only to get back at her husband. Once Alfonso discovers that she's been poking around behind his back, he relents and allows her to continue the investigation - but she has to keep him fully abreast and aware of what is happening. As their investigations draw them closer, Barbara soon discovers that someone is going to great lengths to prevent her from getting to the bottom of the last duchess death. Would she be willing to sacrifice it all to find out the truth? Or would she even survive to tell the tale? Why I adored this book was simply because it was obvious that great care had been taken to craft this story - from the aloof, unreadable Alonso to the clever Barbara to the sparkling Lucrezia de Medici, each character had their own quirks and nuances, right down to Barbara's ladies. The plot was tightly written with hardly any tendency to veer into an architectural lesson or a cultural lecture of that time. Alonso's fascination with beauty tied these two up marvellously. History tends to remember two things: (1) the beautiful (2) mysterious deaths. Barbara didn't fall into either category. On the contrary, she was plain and had a happy marriage. Nothing for conspiracy theorists to draw upon and no juicy gossip to spread either. It's no surprise that she lies pretty much forgotten by the roadside as Time trots on. Loupas revives her with a delightfully deft hand. Instead of making her some fictional purported beauty of the times of which Barbara was clearly not, she drew upon her strengths and what might have made her marriage with Alonso a happy one. Throw in a dash of mystery and an intricate plot and you have a book that will draw in all readers, fans of the genre or not. I rarely venture into the world of the various Italian city-states during the Renaissance. It's not my favorite era, though I know quite a bit of the history and culture. Two earlier attempts to read historical fiction set in this period, one of which was also a mystery, were utter disasters. So it was a leap of faith for me to download The Second Duchess. Mio dio! The author had me midway through the first paragraph.The protagonist, the Archduchess Barbara of Austria, is by her own admission, less than attractive—she claims she is ugly, but that’s a bit of hyperbole. Because of her valued imperial status, she is wed to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, whose blood does not quite rise to the exalted level of Barbara’s but whose pride and arrogance are sufficient for any three Renaissance rulers. Barbara is Alfonso’s second duchess, and the rumors swirling about his first, the beautiful, young, apparently mesmerizing Lucrezia de’ Medici are positively Gothic. On the very day she enters Ferrara as Alfonso’s bride, Barbara receives the first hint that her husband was responsible for Lucrezia’s death, and the first warning of her own fate at his hands. Therefore we have the mystery—who was responsible for Lucrezia’s death? And we have the beginning of the roller-coaster ride—to use a decidedly non-Renaissance phrase!—that is the relationship between the duke and his second duchess.What we never have, to my immense relief, is a feisty heroine and a dark brooding hero who is vanquished by said feisty heroine’s ministrations, and then spend the rest pf their lives in fairy-tale Ferrara, wearing beautiful clothes and jewels. Instead, we get moderately unlovely Barbara, whose emotions and reactions reflect the society in which she lives, even though she rails—internally, for the most part—about certain more brutal aspects. We get Alfonso, a most prideful male with depths that are almost—but not quite—all dark, including the amazing metaphor of the monsters that rise and dance in his eyes. There is no romance here between these two; there is a lessening of suspicion, of wariness, and a growing respect, and a tiny seed of affection that will sprout and possibly flourish in another book.There is also a wealth of secondary and tertiary characters, each finely drawn, with just enough characteristics and individuality to remove them from the crowds and make them worthwhile. There is a veritable cornucopia of details of dress, furniture, rooms, chambers, halls, churches, open spaces, palazzos, and every imaginable object large and small in Ferrara. There is history here too, but not the lecturing, posturing kind dumped by the paragraph and page by authors much less skilled. There is also not simply the dry recounting of facts about who was where on what date doing what, but the more textured, nuanced kind of history that dressed the facts with flesh and makes them real. All of these factors weave seamlessly together to immerse a reader in the time, the place, and the society that was late 16th century Ferrara.Oh, then there was the mystery. For readers familiar with Robert Browning’s poem, “My Last duchess,” on which this book was so cleverly based, the mystery is obvious. But the solution is not. Not only was the identity—or identities—of the perpetrator a surprise, so were the reasons. The clues may have been there all along, but I was far too entranced with Barbara’s complete lack of feistiness and the dark monsters in Alfonso’s eyes to pay attention. I was also too pleased with the lovely quality of the writing, the way I never felt pulled out of the story by a false note of any kind to take mental notes of possible clues.I truly liked this book, which is something I don’t say very often, and I have no hesitation in recommending it. After all, I’ve got two others by this author ready on my Kindle.
wow that is all i can say
Very well written book
A fun, quick read!
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