Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £16.99

Buy Now for £16.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

Rodrigo Borgia picks up his papal skirts and walks out on to the public balcony. Sixty-one years old. How many years does he have in front of him? By his age, four of the five popes he had served were already rotting in their tombs. Sixty-one. Three sons, a ripening daughter and a sublime young mistress, ready to drop more fruit.

Borgia blood. Thick with ambition and determination. How long does he need? Give him another ten - no, fifteen - summers and he will have the bull crest emblazoned over half of Italy. The crowd roars its greeting. But as Pope Alexander VI lifts his hands to offer the traditional blessing, silence falls. The clothes have become the man.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Sarah Dunant (P)2013 Hachette Audio

Critic reviews

"She writes like a painter, and thinks like a philosopher . . . A tour de force of storytelling" (Amanda Foreman)
"A writer of powerful historical imagination and wicked literary gifts" (Simon Schama)

What listeners say about Blood & Beauty

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    61
  • 4 Stars
    34
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    58
  • 4 Stars
    38
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    54
  • 4 Stars
    32
  • 3 Stars
    11
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding

The recent BBC Radio4 serialisation (Book at Bedtime) didn't do this book anywhere near the justice it deservies and I'm glad that it didn't put me off this unadbridged version, which is quite simply outstanding. Maybe even on a par with Wolf Hall? The narration is superb.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A pleasure to enjoy

This is a wonderful historical novel that transports you to the Borgia court. The enchantment is made more enjoyable by the extraordinary reader who captures the characters and the emotions beautifully

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Renaissance Feast

I was inspired to download 'Blood and Beauty' having read Dunant's 'Sacred Hearts' and 'In the Company of the Courtesan.' This is a wonderful, all-consuming feast of a novel, which I'd recommend to anyone with an interest in historical fiction. Dunant really brings the Borgias to life - and they become so much more than the one-dimensional historical villains they are normally portrayed as. John Telfer's narration is a joy. He throws himself at the book with gusto, verve and great skill.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gripped after a slow start

Intrigue, blood, death, fascinating characters. Loved it. Beautifully written with wonderfully evocative imagery. Well read although sometimes distracting falsetto used for the female roles.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely gripping and wonderfully narrated.

I am not particularly interested in the Borgias but the wonderful storytelling, well-paced and with excellent historical detail, captured me early on. The narration cannot be faulted.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • LP
  • 26-04-19

Interesting story - very well narrated.

I enjoyed this audiobook. The story is well crafted and characters well drawn and it held my attention as I went about my chores. I thought that the narration was superb. I plan to download and listen to the sequel and hope the narrator of that novel is able to delineate the characters as well as this one! I recommend this to anyone with an interest in historical fiction.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

I remember reading The Birth of Venus years ago and finding it gripping. And whenever I’ve heard Sarah Dunant talk on the radio I’ve found her well-informed and clearly passionate about her era of specialisation and Italy, about which I’m quite passionate too, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this book. Unfortunately it just hasn’t worked for me. I’m sure the research is meticulous, but the characters seem wooden and inauthentic. And for all the sumptuousness of the descriptions, I just can’t “see” the world described or the people who inhabit it. The narrator’s voice doesn’t help - too shouty and gruff without attenuation, and almost laughable with female voices. At least he pronounces Italian names correctly! But after a couple of tries I’ve given up at about the half-way point, finding this book ... well, a bit silly.


  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Amazing Narration

John Telfer breathes life to the page, Sarah Dunant paints such a specific picture of the male physique.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Can't Seem to Finish This Book

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

This is the second time I've started to listen to this book and once again I've found I can''t get more than a few chapters into it. I don't think it's the story. I've seen Jack Hawkins act and there was nothing lacking in his performances, but I'm afraid I found as I listened to the narration that I was always aware that someone was reading to me. Ideally, the experience of listening to an audio-book should be of someone telling you a story, as if from memory. Some passages came to light a bit more, but in some places I found my attention drifting as the voice became monotonous.

I know that reaction to narrators is largely a matter of personal taste, and many of the other reviewers here seem to have been very happy with Jack Hawkins. So it's perhaps just that he didn't connect with this particular listener. I think I may read the book from the page instead.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Why did it end?

Superb. Can't wait to start the sequel. And fabulous narration. An epic story told masterfully.