It's the one year anniversary of a fantastic book.
about the book:
The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici. John L’Heureux’s long-awaited novel delivers both a monumental and intimate narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers. With incisive detail, L’Heureux beautifully renders the master sculptor’s forbidden homosexual passions, and the artistry that enthralled the powerful and highly competitive Medici and Albizzi families. The finished work is a sumptuously detailed historical novel that entertains while it delves deeply into both the sacred and the profane within one of the Italian Renaissance’s most consequential cities, fifteenth century Florence.
I will repost my review of this fantastic novel.
To begin, I was given a copy of this book for review. I was neither asked,nor encouraged to write a positive review.
Now, with housekeeping out of the way, I truly enjoyed this novel.
The Renaissance period is amazing..and this book is no exception.
We see the inner workings of the workshop of the great Donatello, through the eyes of Luca Matteo.
Luca is a young man who, himself, is fascinated by the great Donatello.
We learn about the fine artisanship that occurs in the master's workshop, we learn about several high placed renaissance individuals (Cosimo de Medici) and we come to know the master himself.
Mostly, this is a book about forbidden love. We watch as Donatello creates his DAVID statue, while he himself, the mighty Goliath of this time is being brought to his knees by his love for the model for David.
I found myself feeling pity for the great master, as well as for Luca, the teller of the story.
I give this book 4/5 stars and encourage anyone interested in art, or Renaissance Florence to read this well written book. You will not be disappointed. But...if you can't tolerate gore, skip over the part about the cat..
Now, the author has graciously offered an excerpt:
IT IS RIGHT and just to confess at the very start that it was fornication that took me out of the Order of Friars Minor and set me on the path of sin. I am an old man—perhaps sixty-seven—and make this confession at leisure and in detail since, imprisoned in this monastery, I have nothing left but time. And, to speak truly, I write this for pleasure as well. Having long left behind me the possibilities of lusting and loving, I find satisfaction in watching my quill move across the page. There is no waste; I use the reverse side of paper that has already been ruined by false starts, ink stains, the wanton mistakes of inattentive copyists. On the finer side of this confession, blotted, you will find Holy Scripture, a nice irony. I have myself served as copyist—and do yet—and I know it is easy to err, even in the service of God.
The unwanted son of a rich merchant and his Dalmatian slave girl, I was taken in by a dyer of wool and consigned as a boy to the Fratelli of Saint Francis where I proved a failure as a monk. Later I failed as a painter and still later as a sculptor. From birth I have been a creature of lust and misadventure and I have continued on in the usual way of men who have come to nothing. Thus I have no claim to your attention. I can make none. I presume to write this only because of my long association with two men: the cattivo Agnolo Mattei who is burning now in hell, God have mercy, and Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, my master, whom the whole world reveres today as Donatello, the greatest sculptor of our time.
I was born—perhaps—in the year 1400, a time of great portents that the world was ending. It rained blood in Orvieto, there was a plague of frogs in Pisa, in Florence fire was seen in the sky for three nights sequent. It is said that in Paris a two-headed baby was born speaking Latin and Greek, but that of course was harmless folly, and in any case the world continued on as wise and foolish as it had always been. No worker in dyes knows the date of his birth, though everyone remembers the turn of one hundred years, and it is certain many unwanted sons were born in 1400 and so perhaps was I. My mother, Miryam, was a Dalmatian slave in the house of a rich merchant of Prato, and when it was clear that he had made her pregnant, he married her off—with a persuasive dowry of forty florins and a chest of bed linen—to a wool dyer in the Via dei Tintori. Thus was I born, officially legitimate, to Matteo Franchi and his new wife, Miryam, who two days after my birth died of the Black Pest. The pestis atra, the Black Pest, has marked the most important moments of my life. It was the Black Pest that carried off my mother two days after my birth and it was the Black Pest that released me for a time from the Rule of
Father Saint Francis and I used to think—but no longer—that in the end the Black Pest would see me off, swollen and foul smelling, to the silence that never ends. But I cannot repent its ill favors since it was the Black Pest that brought me, hastened on by my sins, to the bottega of my lord Donatello.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John L’Heureux is an award-winning poet, novelist, short story writer, and has taught at Georgetown University, Tufts, Harvard, and (for more than 35 years) in the English Department at Stanford University where he was Lane Professor of Humanities. There he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and earned it again in 1998.
A prolific writer, L’Heureux has written more than twenty books of fiction, short fiction and poetry. His works have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have been included in dozens of anthologies including Best American Stories and Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards. John L’Heureux has twice received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2006 he was awarded a Guggenheim Grant to do research for The Medici Boy, his new novel.
He is retired and lives in Palo Alto with his wife Joan.
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