|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Imprint:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
The Tigress of Forli is an historical account of a courageous woman, Caterina Sforza, which is her maiden name. She was married three times to a Riario, Feo, and Medici. She had 8 children, held her fortress under a siege for many days, and spent a significant amount of time imprisoned in a dungeon. Yet, have you ever heard of her? She was a woman known throughout Europe for her spirit and fearlessness. This account of Caterina appears very well-researched and all-encompassing, it spans from Caterina's young childhood to her death and includes a lot of the history of her family and Italian politics of the day.
In the late 1400s and early 1500s, Italy was a divided country with constantly warring city-states. Assinations and political corruption were rampant. Depending on the who was the Pope at any given moment, your family could be blessed with good fortune or thrown in a dungeon and forgotten about.
Caterina was schooled as a child that family matters more than the individual and one must do anything to keep the family in good standing (even complacently accepting a marriage at the age of 10 to a much older man) and that military skills are extremely valuable. Surviving three husbands, Caterina proved herself to be an able warrior and protector of her children, since she had to fight to keep her lands so that her children would receive it as an inheritance. Elizabeth Lev's portrayal of Caterina shows her as a caring mother with the spirit of a hundred men in battle. It was inspiring to read about Caterina's life and actions.
I liked that Caterina's struggles were always placed well within the Italian politics of the day. If someone was attacking her, the reader understood why (mostly because they wanted her land). The reader also got glimpses of what else besides military actions were going in Italy and the world. For example, there is a brief mention of Columbus setting sail from Spain in 1492... and we all know where he is heading! Artists were also frequently mentioned and placed within the narrative, such as Botticelli and Michaelangelo.
However, while there were many good parts of the book, I found the beginning a little hard to get into. First, while Caterina is a child, she doesn't control her life, she only watches it around her without making decisions. This makes it hard to connect to the girl until she begins to be an individual for herself. In addition, most of my history comes from historical fiction, where the author takes some creative license to imagine the person is thinking and feeling and spins an historical narrative around the character. The Tigress of Forli, however, is non-fiction and relies only on documented facts. Therefore, the reader is never inside of Caterina's head with an all-access pass to her thoughts and decisions. This makes the book read more like a textbook than a novel.
I think The Tigress of Forli is a great book for anyone interested in strong women in history, Italian politics, European history, or well-written non-fiction books.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I received this book free of charge as an eGalley from the publisher via netgalley.com. I was not compensated for this review in any way and the review is my own opinion.