The Family is a fitting ending to a terrific writing career. Completed after his death, Puzo tells the story of the Borgias, what he considered to be the first Mafia family. It starts with the coronation of Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander in 1492. Pope Alexander’s reign as Pope had little to do with religion and had everything to do with amassing power for him and his family. Alexander had children and lovers and a taste for all worldly goods. He sets up his oldest son Cesare as a cardinal with the thought of him taking over as Pope. He marries off his other children to influential families in order to solidify his power base. His son Juan is set up to lead the papal armies and take over lands. Meanwhile his only daughter Lucrezia has a torrid incestuous romance with her brother Cesare. Things eventually start to unravel as the Pope makes many enemies including within his own family.
This is a bit of a departure from some of Puzo’s Mafia fiction, taking place during the Italian Renaissance. He has an easy going narrative style that makes for enjoyable reading. From a technical standpoint, I thought he did a little too much summary narrative and could have dug into his scenes a little better. The characters were strong and memorable. They are all very flawed but still likeable. Cesare, in particular, was a character to root for. I enjoyed cameo appearances by Machiavelli, Michaelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci. I have always been a Puzo fan, and although this doesn’t stand up to his best fiction, this was still a very enjoyable read that I would recommend for readers of historical fiction and high drama.
Carl Alves – author of Two For Eternity