Book summary: The Scarlet City

2005 BY HELLA S. HAASSE

In The Scarlet City, Hella Haasse takes us to 16th-century Italy, which is torn by savage violence of war and sinister intrigues for power.
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 identiy.

Giovanni's search introduces us to some of the most intriguing people of the times: Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna and Lucrezia Borgia. Hella Haasse draws each with great depth and brilliant color.

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