An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history.
Born at a time when Christianity was dying out and the Ottoman Empire was aggressively expanding, Isabella was inspired in her youth by tales of Joan of Arc, a devout young woman who unified her people and led them to victory against foreign invaders. In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, 23-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and a mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and León. Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a 24-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing North African invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbus's trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World with the help of Rodrigo Borgia, the infamous Pope Alexander VI. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain's reputation for centuries.
Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, in which millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabella's influence, due to hundreds of years of misreporting that often attributed her accomplishments to Ferdinand, the bold and philandering husband she adored. Using new scholarship, Downey's luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.
©2014 Kirsten Downey (P)2014 Random House Audio
"A strong, fascinating woman, Isabella helped to usher in the modern age, and this rich, clearly written biography is a worthy chronicle of her impressive yet controversial life." (Kirkus Reviews)
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"Good Biography! Learned so much about the Queen"
I have read many historical novels and books about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and how they united Spain and began the European conquest of the New World by financing Colombus. I have also read about their daughters, especially Juana and Catalina. I am a student of history and have been studying world history both formally in school, including college, and informally through my personal reading for over 50 years.
However, I never knew of Isabella's direct responsibility for the infamous Spanish Inquisition. This biography, with references, credits the queen with the major responsibility for this holocaust. Of course, she was a product of the times during which she lived. From her perspective, she was saving these people's souls from a hellish afterlife and doing the work of G-d. However even the Pope disagreed with her.
I always thought it was the church that was responsible for the torture, massacre and dispossession of non-Catholics in Spain during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. But I was wrong. It was Isabella and Ferdinand. Talk about self-rightgous fanatics!
This book was indeed very enlightening!
This is a beautifully written, meticulously researched, and wonderfully narrated book on one of the most controversial figures in world history. Queen Isabella ruled from 1474 to 1504 but those 30 years changed in the world in many-many important ways. This book is a detailed chronicle of those years and has been written and narrated in such a way that I felt that I was transported to that time and actually watched these events unfold as a silent observer. I would recommend this book highly not just to the erudite historian but to a lay person like me that wants to know what forces shaped our existence and how we came to the peoples that we are today.
"A great prep for a trip to Spain"
My wife and I are planning to spend a month in Spain in the near future. I think the story of Isabella is central to Spanish history. While I plan to extend my reading I think this was a good basis.
The story is dramatic and captivating and it's telling never lost my attention.I may even listen to it again!
The narration was excellent.
The narrator's inability to pronounce in Spanish
The narration was so bad I could not finish the book.
I couldn't believe how a history book could be so gripping. Love this book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history or the background of Christianity during the age of discovery.
"A challenging listen"
It is hard for me to say that listening to this was not time well-spent as I did learn a great deal about this time period. However, the time investment relative to the subject of Queen Isabella fell short. I felt the 21 hours was muddled with digressions from the character of Queen Isabella and got lost in surrounding events. There were times when I felt like I was listening to a book on the Inquisition, the Moors, or Christopher Columbus. The author goes so in depth with these events, she loses sight of how it relates to Isabella. Far less time investment was needed in these areas in order to contribute to the life and understanding of Queen Isabella.
The ending, particularly the last two chapters, was the first time I felt like I was given the opportunity to learn who Isabella was as a person and her interpersonal relationships. The end was done quite nicely.
Kimberly had significant difficulty with pronunciation. It was worse with the Spanish terms and names, but there were other English and French words in which emphasis was incorrectly placed on the wrong syllables to the extent that it made names and phrases almost unrecognizable. It distracted from the context. At one point I did not realize she was talking about one of the recurrent characters because she pronounced the name differently than in previous chapters.
I love history and have read and listened to a variety of historical texts and lectures. This book was a painful read and not because of the historical content. The organization of the time line gets confusing and does not feel fluid. Despite the amount of time invested in this book, I will be looking for another book to get better acquainted with this incredible Queen.
I learned so much I didn't know about Isabella and the history of the time. A very well researched and historical view of the woman and the time.
"The Reviews Are Right"
This has to be the best of this kind of book that I've ever read. It had the right mix of anecdote, empirical evidence, and relevant episodes of the ruler's life. It is really a great buy for those interested in biographies of leaders and royalty.
A decent biography of Isabella with one glaring exception--Downey "explains" the Reconquest, Inquisition, and general attitudes of religious persecution very ill indeed. She understates the historical significance of these events and Isabella's involvement with them.
Apart from acting as an apologist, the biography is fine. In terms of the narration, though, I cannot understand why a narrator who could actually pronounce Spanish words wasn't found. It's jarring to hear the narrator's pronunciations throughout the performance.
More biographies :)
It was a bit too long.
"Narration is nasal, arrogant, annoying."
The biography seems well-researched, ruined by the breezy, silly narration.
Sister Queens. Biography.
A more mature reading would have better fit the subject. Her flat accent sounds gossipy, conspiratorial, forced.
Neither. It's a scholarly work.
"A great listen"
This has to be among the best I have listened to. Well written and narrated history of one of Spain's greatest monarchs
Surprised how much there was to learn
All of them
"Wide Screen History"
I got this as a double bill with Roger Crowley's Conquerers which covers the same period from aross the border in Portugal. Both are great books. The joy of this lies partly in how little I knew about Isabella who is kind of Spain's equivalent to Elizabeth the first. A woman who became Queen of Castille despite being no one's first choice and then went on to rule through a mixture of hard work, intelligence, common sense of people skills. In the debit column she established the inquisition. This is a gripping tale of how Isabella took Spain from an affiliation of kingdoms still partly occupied by the Moors to a global superpower through her cannily engineered marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon, diplomatic schmoozing with the papacy (including the Borgias) and funding of Columbus' discovery of America. As a sideline she set up the inquisition with Torquemada. With that cast of characters there's almost too much to work with but the author brings it together beautifully to offer a panoramic view of one of the most dynamic periods in history. Highly recommended; think about this and "Conquerers" as a double bill.
"Listened to it twice!"
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. What a Queen! Amazing accomplishments, learned so much more about her. Such a shame the Spanish Inquisition blighted her reputation.
"Magnificent story of a truly remarkable woman"
I have rarely enjoyed a story this much especially as the author has presented a great story full of little known facts without ever becoming dry and overzealous about unnecessary details. Love the narrator who speaks clearly and with the right amount of expression in her voice.
"Excellent feminist view with fresh investigation"
This work following my personal extensive reading on this subject from other writers has left me feeling very impressed by the approach taken and the conclusions drawn - albeit there are anomalies and possible errors in details overall I believe many new insights having been raised in this work which require further investigation and verification by others to consolidate the new facts that have come to light as a result of the personal investigations carried out by the author and which would prove beneficial to the history of women and which which men ( like Fernando)would subsume for their own glory
"Beginning of Spanish Empire"
Excellent book. Enjoyed the detailed research and broad context given of the times in which it all happened.
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