Week ending May 24, 2013
Meyer, G.J. The Borgias: The Hidden History. 16 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 20 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780385366137. $60; digital download. HIST
Meyer (The Tudors) here turns his attention to the notorious Renaissance family. He claims that the villainous reputation of the Borgias has little basis in fact and sprang from contemporary and later stories intended to sully the name of a powerful clan. Rising from the Spanish nobility, the Borgias produced popes Calixtus and Alexander, Alexander’s ambitious son Cesare, and infamous daughter Lucrezia. Alexander proved particularly ruthless in promoting his family’s interests but no more so than the warlords and heads of city-states who dominated 15th- and 16th-century Italy. Meyer also states that the claims that the family practiced incest are groundless. Reader Enn Reitel does an excellent job telling the story.
Verdict Listeners with an interest in history will enjoy this expansive and engaging work. [“Best for general readers new to the Borgias and Italian Renaissance history, while those already knowledgeable about the Borgias may take a pass,” read the review of the Bantam hc, LJ 2/15/13.—Ed.]—Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Parkersburg Lib.
Steinberg, Janice. The Tin Horse. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15¾ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780385359498. $45; digital download. F
Steinberg (Death in a City of Mystics; The Dead Man and the Sea) here focuses on the Greenstein family, particularly twins Elaine and Barbara. Part detective novel, part sociological look at life in the Jewish Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, and part story of a family’s secrets, the book is narrated from Elaine’s point of view. Reminiscing on her time before moving into a retirement home, she recollects life from the 1920s to the cusp of World War II and into the present day as she searches for Barbara, who ran away from home in 1939. The few clues give Elaine reason to doubt not just the wisdom of the search but everything she believed about her past. The well-defined and believably diverse characters come alive through both the writing and Kate McGregor-Stewart’s reading. The tale is filled with tension, wisdom, and wit, though its ending may seem either too pat or incomplete.
Verdict Recommended for general fiction audiences.—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo
Thebarge, Sarah. The Invisible Girls. 5 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 6¼ hrs. Oasis Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781613755334. $22.99; digital download. MEMOIR
After surviving breast cancer in her late twenties, Thebarge moved from New York City to Portland, OR, in search of a new start. After befriending a struggling Somali refugee and her five young daughters, Thebarge became involved in the family’s life, helping them pay their bills and teaching them about America. Thebarge’s heartfelt memoir is disjointed, shifting among accounts of her cancer treatments, fundamental Christian upbringing, and relationship with the Somali family. Skilled narrator Kirsten Potter was miscast. Her measured delivery is a poor match for Thebarge’s voice, and her Somali accent is unconvincing.
Verdict Recommended for religious collections or wherever inspirational memoirs are popular.—Julie Judkins, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor