Author: Mary Hoffman
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2011
Synopsis: Michelangelo’s statue of David is renowned all over the world. Thousands flock to Florence to admire the artistry behind this Renaissance masterpiece, and to admire the beauty of the human form captured in the marble. But the identity of the model for this statue that has been so revered for over five hundred years has been lost . . .
In this epic story Mary Hoffman uses her persuasive narrative skills to imagine the story of Gabriele, an eighteen-year-old who, by becoming Michelangelo’s model, finds himself drawn into a world of spies, politicking, sabotage and murder. Set against the backdrop of Florence, this is a rich, colourful and thrilling tale.
As a young adult, when fridge magnets were in I bought a David set for my friends. You could dress him up in different outfits including an Elvis one. My parents visited Florence at some point and were also blown away and finally about five years ago, I finally got to go to Florence myself. After announcing to the Frog that I could live solely on Italian food FOREVER, I arrived and discovered I couldn’t eat the damn stuff for love or money. Still, the little monster growing inside of me didn’t affect my appetite for art and we visited the Ufizi, Academia and wondered the back corridors of the Medici Palace. I loved Florence, and was curious when I discovered that Mary Hoffman had written a book about quite possibly the most iconic statue in the world.
Straight away I was intrigued by who Gabriele was and how he was linked to Michaelangelo. The thing with historical novels is that they have to be steeped in just the right amount of truth to keep you reading without wanting to go and check things out on Wikipedia. Of course, I did go and check (because I’m that kind of person), but what I found allowed me to step into the rest of the book without question. I don’t know how people really spoke at that time, but I found the tone of the book to be just right. There was a lot of sex and intrigue right there at the beginning of the book, but it’s put in such a way that I think although the book is strictly YA, there’s nothing too shocking in it for a pre-teen.
The book takes place over a number of years and one of the things I really liked was that you really get a feel for how Gabriele grows during his time in Florence. At the beginning he is a naive country boy who is quite easily led astray, but as his life becomes more complicated and he becomes more intricately entwined in the dealings of the different factions in Florence, he also becomes a little wiser, less of a hot head and more thoughtful, except when it comes to women. I loved the fact that he just always got into trouble over women and he just doesn’t get why it keeps happening.
When writing about the art, Hoffman writes convincingly about transforming a spoilt block of marble into David. Her weaving of fact and fiction and her depiction of the creation of this well-known piece of art was so masterfully done that I felt as if I really did see David come to life in my imagination.
All in all, I found Gabriele’s character convincing. The plot was full of suspense to keep me wanting to turn the page and Hoffman’s way of telling a story meant I just devoured the book. Plus there was the extra that it was set in one of those magical Italian cities, which is always a bonus to me.
I thought I’d rate the book, but rather than reinventing the wheel, I’d use the same rating system as that well-known book review site (you know the one I’m talking about).
- Hidden History Revealed by Mary Hoffman (lorrieporter.wordpress.com)