The Tigress of Forli, by Elizabeth Lev

tigress-of-forliSo, I go to the library last week and stop as usual at the new book section (because it is the closest to the children’s section, and often my books come from here). And what do you know? There was a whole bookshelf (meaning maybe ten to twelve books) of literature about women or by women! I couldn’t take my eyes off that for a few good minutes. I should have taken a photo. This never happens in real life! Right? Anyway, I ended up picking out a historical book about the life of Caterina de Medici and the autobiography of Agatha Christie. Give me a few more sunny days at the park with the bicycle-riding child, and I will write the second review very soon also.

I was excited to read this new account of Caterina de Medici’s life because it was written by a woman historian. I thought it would be a fresh perspective on a historical figure that had been demonized by the chronicles of the past. I think the author did start from this premise, but the thing is, there is only so much one can freshen the history when using the same old set of sources. Although, I do wonder why the author did not use intimate diaries and letters to reflect more of Caterina’s inner and personal life, rather than the public and political events that she was involved in. Maybe they are not available, what do I know?

After reading this book I was left with some more knowledge about the Italian political scene of the era but very little knowledge of who Caterina actually was. She doesn’t even come out as too impressive, if judged only by this book: just a woman who felt strongly about her status, her lands, her people and her family. She didn’t do anything more than what a man in her position would have done, and her acts were deemed extraordinary only because she was a woman. And the sad thing is that, as it appears from this book, she would have been quite happy with a small life, creating herbal remedies and raising her children away from the political scene, because she withdrew from the matters of the state often when she was married. But her husbands kept dying on her, so she had to go back to leading her armies and defending her fortresses.

I did enjoy the book, though. There is always something to learn from history. Although we keep repeating it, nonetheless.