The scarlet city, by Hella S. Haase


The novel centers around Giovanni Borgia, a mysterious figure known in history as the infans Romanus, or child of Rome. Although he bears one of the most notorious names in all of Italy, Giovanni doesn’t know his parentage. Is Cesare Borgia his father or his brother? Or is he no relation at all? Is Lucrezia Borgia his mother or his sister — or possibly both? Hella Haasse uses the ferment and intrigue of the Italian Wars — during which French, Swiss, Spanish and German armies surged into Italy — as a backdrop for Giovanni’s agonizing quest for his identity.

Giovanni’s search introduces us to some of the most intriguing people of the times: Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna and Lucrezia Borgia. (from Goodreads)

I found this book on my bed one night. My mother saw it on a book flea market and remembered I like the Borgias’ story, so she got it for me. It was a nice surprise!

The reading of this book was a weird experience. First, it was about the Borgias,  yes, but not about the Borgias I was interested in. It is centered, like the goodreads’ synopsis explains, about the infans Romanus, an obscure character that more or less vanished in history. The author collected the few things known about his adult life, took ALL the historic gossip about the family, added some other historical characters in the mix, put some of her own imagination and created a whole thing around it. I feel ambiguous about it. I can’t say I didn’t like it, but I can’t say I did, either. I enjoyed some parts, and I was deeply annoyed by others, so… How would you call that?