Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pg. 99: Caroline Murphy's "Murder of a Medici Princess"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Caroline Murphy's Murder of a Medici Princess.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Murder of a Medici Princess, Caroline Murphy illuminates the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.

Murphy is a superb storyteller, and her fast-paced narrative captures the intrigue, the scandal, the romantic affairs, and the violence that were commonplace in the Florentine court. She brings to life an extraordinary woman, fluent in five languages, a free-spirited patron of the arts, a daredevil, a practical joker, and a passionate lover. Isabella, in fact, conducted numerous affairs, including a ten-year relationship with the cousin of her violent and possessive husband. Her permissive lifestyle, however, came to an end upon the death of her father, who was succeeded by her disapproving older brother Francesco. Considering Isabella's ways to be licentious and a disgrace upon the family, he permitted her increasingly enraged husband to murder her in a remote Medici villa. To tell this dramatic story, Murphy draws on a vast trove of newly discovered and unpublished documents, ranging from Isabella's own letters, to the loose-tongued dispatches of ambassadors to Florence, to contemporary descriptions of the opulent parties and balls, salons and hunts in which Isabella and her associates participated. Murphy resurrects the exciting atmosphere of Renaissance Florence, weaving Isabella's beloved city into her story, evoking the intellectual and artistic community that thrived during her time. Palaces and gardens in the city become places of creativity and intrigue, sites of seduction, and grounds for betrayal.

Here then is a narrative of compelling and epic proportions, magnificent and alluring, decadent and ultimately tragic.
Among the praise for Murder of a Medici Princess:
"Murphy's book swoops and dazzles like the best fiction."
--Entertainment Weekly

"This supple, smart account of a lesser-known daughter will engage modern readers as it vivifies both Renaissance Florence and an extraordinary woman who paid the ultimate price for flouting her era's traditional gender roles."
--Publishers Weekly

"Isabella de' Medici (1542-1576)was the daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, Duke of Florence. Murphy vividly chronicles Isabella's provocative, brief life (she was murdered at age 34), liberally drawing on quotes from letters sent by a variety of key figures...This enjoyable page-turner would make a fantastic biopic."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Caroline Murphy has brought to life an independent-minded Florentine princess and the loves, family conflicts, political plots and violence in which she was enmeshed. A gripping tale told with consumate historical skill."
--Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre
Learn more about Murder of a Medici Princess at the Oxford University Press website.

Caroline P. Murphy is a cultural historian and biographer. Her books include Lavinia Fontana: A Painter and Her Patrons in Sixteenth-Century Bologna and The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice Della Rovere.

The Page 99 Test: Murder of a Medici Princess.

--Marshal Zeringue