New this month is the novel, The Princess of Nowhere, by Prince Lorenzo Borghese, published on December 7th by HarperCollins.
You can read our review of The Princess of Nowhere here. It is a novel of the life of one of the author's "scandalous" ancestors, Princess Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, and an insightful look into her tumultuous marriage to Prince Camillo Borghese that really is a tragic love story. The Princess of Nowhere is an objective yet compassionate look at a truly fascinating woman who was so much more than what history has made her out to be, and there really is no better way to learn more about Pauline than through the honest voice of one of her descendants.
A recap of the author's book reading and Q&A session in New York on December 8th, as well as our interview with the author, can be read by clicking the "Read More" button below. Highlights of the interview include details on the author's research of his ancestors and the era in which they lived, how an intimate understanding of them has affected his own life, how the marriage between Pauline and Camillo would be different (and quite possibly better) in today's world, what Pauline was really like as opposed to how she was portrayed by the society in which she lived and throughout history, how she would be received into the author's family today, the author's own thoughts on Pauline, writing and much more.
And be sure to have a look at the book's official website, where you can find out more about the The Princess of Nowhere including a gallery of photos showcasing the real locations featured throughout the novel.
You can order your copy of the novel at Amazon.com -The Princess of Nowhere: A Novel
Reading and Q&A
The author of The Princess of Nowhere, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, spoke at Borders in New York on the evening of December 8th about his new novel, which tells the story of one of his "infamous" ancestors, Princess Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. Following a reading of the epilogue, which summarizes the author's introduction to Pauline, was a Q&A session. Of note was the author's mention that the title of the novel means that Pauline was not really a princess of anywhere, for she was neither a princess of Italy, nor of France. When asked to which of his ancestors does he relate the most, Pauline or her husband Prince Camillo Borghese, the author answered Pauline.
He went on to add that through the writing of this novel, he learned that communication and trust are two of the most important things in making a relationship work, both of which were lacking in Pauline and Camillo's relationship and that the absence of both was a major contributing factor to the unhappiness in their marriage. He also said that in today's modern world, Pauline would probably be spotlighted in the way that many celebrities and socialites are, wherein it is their wild ways that are sensationalized, while the good deeds that they accomplish, such as their charity work (of which Pauline devoted much of her time to, though not too heavily detailed in the novel), is treated in a much quieter fashion or sometimes disregarded completely.
What inspired you to write about Pauline and Camillo now?
I have always wanted to learn more about my family history. When I started doing research on Pauline and Camillo, I was amazed. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about their tragic love story. If I didn’t know, I assumed that the majority of people didn’t know either. And that’s when I knew I had to tell their story.
Have you always wanted to write a novel?
No. It has always been a thought, but not one that I took too seriously. That is until I got deeply involved in the research of Pauline and Camillo. And when I learned that Pauline died on my birthday…I figured it was a sign. I had to write a book. Not just any book, but a book about Pauline and Camillo. A love story never told before.
If she were alive today, how would Pauline be received or welcomed into your family now?
My family would embrace Pauline. Not one of us thinks she was a bad person. We believe she was a victim. The Pope was always fond of her and helped her feel at home in Rome after she left Elba. Usually, a Pope does not go out of his way to embrace evil. Camillo always found it in his heart to forgive her. If people are truly evil, such an act would have never happened. That said, we would certainly invite her to Christmas dinner. After all, we are Italian. And, she was extremely entertaining and beautiful. That said, she certainly has my vote.
How would Pauline and Camillo’s relationship be different or better now today than it was when they were alive in the 19th century? Do you think they would have fared better today than they did back then?
Their relationship would have been extremely different. During the 19th Century, the only way these two could communicate when not together was by writing. As they were usually very far apart, their letters wouldn’t get to each other for months. No wonder they didn’t trust each other as trust is hard to gain without communication. Additionally, women had very little rights in the 19th Century. That is why Napolean controlled Pauline’s every move. Without her brother, and the customs of the time, she would have learned to love, not forced to love. As a result, I would imagine she would have been more open to getting to know Camillo on her own terms and then slowly falling in love with him.
Your voice in the novel is wonderfully objective and compassionate – how would you feel about a woman like Pauline? Would she be too much for you as she seemed to be at times for Camillo?
I’m not really sure. She definitely would have been a challenge. But that’s somewhat exciting. As my mother says, "predictability is the kiss of death," and certainly Pauline was not predictable. Although she had commitment issues, I really do believe it was due to the circumstances of the time. She rarely saw her husband and was also smart enough to realize he too was being unfaithful. That said, Pauline, when in love, was the ideal woman for me. It’s the Pauline who is out of love that I’d be worried about.
In what ways are you sympathetic or understanding toward Camillo and what he went through in his relationship with Pauline?
I’m sympathetic for Camillo’s insecurities although his insecurities were surely justified. The problem one faces when marrying a beautiful woman is that many men will try to steal her. This can often lead to jealousy, especially when the husband is apart from his bride and his bride is a Princess and the sister of the Emperor of France. That’s rough.
Did you have to study the period of the 19th century during the writing of the novel? Did you enjoy that? Was there anything about that period of life that you wish was still in practice in today’s modern world?
Yes, I had to study the late 18th century and 19th century. I did enjoy learning about the rise and fall of Napolean and the absolute chaos that was occurring in Europe. If I could choose one thing from that period and bring it alive today, it would be the wonderful parties from that time. Grand palaces filled with masked kings, queens, dukes, princesses and artist all interacting like school kids. Champagne, fireworks, Italian delicacies, horse-drawn carriages…wow, now that would have been fun.
How does your family feel about your writing of this novel? Do they think that you’ve portrayed Pauline and Camillo honestly and fairly? What were their first thoughts and impressions after reading the novel?
My family has always supported me and this novel is no different. As they haven’t read the book yet, I can’t answer the question. However, I’m sure they will think I portrayed them both fairly.
What was your favorite part of writing the novel? (i.e. getting to know your family and yourself better, such as your own ideals and morals?)
Learning about the Pauline and Camillo. When I first saw Pauline’s statue in the Galleria Borghese in 1988 and then her tomb in the crypt of the Borghese chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, I knew I wanted to learn more. One day I thought…and sure enough, I did. That’s one more goal completed on my bucket list.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing the novel? What was the hardest element of the novel to get right (i.e. the voice, the details of the period, incorporating the real life elements of Pauline and Camillo’s relationship and life into a partly fictitious story?)
The sex. It was very difficult writing about my relatives having sex…and sort of creepy. What was also difficult was trying to portray the real Pauline and Camillo as there are so many fictitious stories about them. As a result, I had to sort the fact from fiction and this was only accomplished by doing more research.
How long did it take you to write the novel? Do you work in the evenings, what is your writing schedule?
I spent three years writing the novel. I usually did this in the early evenings and on the weekends, especially when it was cold or rainy. Always a good excuse to sit down and write.
Did your family offer any input or additional details during the writing of the novel?
My father shared with me a story of a beautiful letter he had read from Pauline to Camillo. He said it was one of the most romantic letters he had ever read. Besides this, their only input was to not make the family look bad. Remember, we are Italian and family always comes first :)
What inspired you to write about Pauline and Camillo now?
Thank you to HarperCollins and Prince Lorenzo Borghese.
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