Read my review here.
1. Francesca Giordano lives at a time when civilization is being revitalized by new perceptions and ideas that threaten the existing power structure. How does the struggle between the two shape this story and the challenges that Francesca faces?
Francesca is part of that “new perception/idea”. She is a woman in a man’s world. She is the Borgia’s poisoner and was even sneaked in to the conclave in order to keep Il Cardinale safe. In a way, Borgia is a force behind that change. He has a goal and is willing to do anything – ANYTHING – to get it. In a way, Francesca’s association with Borgia makes her life easier.
2. Over the course of this story, Francesca kills at least twice and possibly three times. Can her actions be justified morally?
Is there an excuse – apart from self-defense – to take another life? Personally, I don’t think there is any. Some cultures accept the killing of one person out of revenge. Eye for an eye. I’ve heard it said that it is not a sin to kill if you don’t enjoy it. But what if you don’t feel anything when you do it? No remorse, no fear, no nothing. First time she kills, it was because she needed that person to be out of the way. It is for personal gain. Second time, out of revenge for the death of her father. And if we assume that she did kill Pope Innocent, well, that’s because Borgia told her to, albeit indirectly. So… no, it cannot be justified.
3. While she yearns for the glassmaker, Rocco and the life she could have had with him, Francesca does not hesitate to pursue a relationship with Cesare Borgia that is sexual and more. Is she hypocritical in having feelings for both men or is she drawn to each for different reasons?
Have you seen Cesare Borgia? I mean, really? Who wouldn’t? =D
I kid, I kid. I believe she is attracted to both men for different reasons. She is attracted to Cesare because he was an attractive, powerful, smart, virile man. Being in his favor had its benefits. Francesca is attracted to him physically and Cesare’s charm and charisma made it hard for her to say no. The secrecy made it exciting for her and Cesare. On the other hand, she is attracted to Rocco because he has stability. He has established himself, as a profitable business, and most of all, he has a son. He can provide for his family. Rocco is simple, an opposite of Cesare.
4. Francesca has a complex relationship with her employer, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. How much do you think the Cardinal knows about Francesca’s past? What role may he have played in the murder of her father?
From what I’ve read abut Rodrigo Borgia, he was a cunning and very intelligent man. Every step he took, every word he uttered was a step closer to realizing one of his many goals. Up to the point that he abuses his power and misuses the very Scripture that he was sworn to abide by. I think Borgia knows full well about Francesca’s past but speaks none of it because he saw how useful she could be in the greater scheme of things. And Francesca had proven herself trustworthy and reliable. As for her father’s murder, it is possible that he knew details of it but I don’t think it was his word that put the pieces in motion.
5. In modern terms, Francesca suffers from post-traumatic shock related to an event early in her life. In a time before psychoanalysis, she can understand her condition only as the act of a supernatural agent, either God or the Devil. What factors in her life may prompt her to look elsewhere for the true cause of her distress as well as the path to resolving it?
Every time she talks about what is eating her inside, I think it is her conscience talking. Having been raised a God-fearing Catholic, in the House of Borgia where the head of the house was a Cardinal, I think she lived by the teaching of the Holy Word. She believed that if she did wrong, she would be punished for it. And that’s a normal thing to think about.
What can change her perception of that is Borgia himself. I mean, he kept on doing these “bad things”, directly or indirectly, but it didn’t seem like he was punished for it. Was Borgia a bad man because he did these things? If so, is Francesca a bad person for killing? Is it the Devil telling her to do these bad things and she’s merely succumbing to temptation? It is her guilt talking and to me, the fact that she lets her guilt take over her tells me that she is still a good person.
6. The discovery that her late father was a “converse,” a convert from Judaism to Christianity, shocks Francesca and makes her question what else he concealed from her. But it also opens her to new perspectives and relationships. Is the uncovering of hidden truths always beneficial or are there times when secrets should remain unspoken?
I believe that the truth will set you free. “You” meaning both the secret keeper and the one kept in the dark. One might have questions about their lives and who they are and the TRUTH is the only answer to that. Finding out that her father was a conversi made it easier for her to connect with the Jewish community that helped her hugely in her cause. She related better to their situation thus drove her desire to help them. Truths aren’t always what we want to hear but at the end of the day, we need to hear them.