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The Medici Boy Hardcover – April 7, 2014
This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
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*Starred Review* Intensely appealing, viscerally gripping, and unfailingly human in its characters, L’Heureux’s most recent novel beckons with the undeniable promise of great writing to all lovers of historical literary fiction that easily manages to transcend its time parameters. In the early fifteenth century, a young Italian boy, Luca Mattei, tries his hand at the priesthood but fails miserably when he realizes the temptations of the flesh supersede his godly devotions. He finds instead his path set for the bottega, or workshop, of the great artisan Donatello, in Florence. Donatello proves to be a mercurial master, prone to fits of artistic temper as well as moments of great kindness. Luca’s relationship with Donatello shifts over the years, finally meeting its greatest challenge when Donatello’s longing for Luca’s ostensible brother, the enchanting model Agnolo, creates unexpected yet inevitable upheaval in each of their lives. Notable for its impeccable details about the exquisite art and brutal politics of early 1400s Italy, this is also a thoroughly researched musing on the vagaries, peccadilloes, and redemptions of people regardless of era. Expansive yet precisely written, L’Heureux’s work will long linger in the reader’s mind. --Julie Trevelyan
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A deeply ambitious novelist, one who isn’t afraid of dealing with dark themes and what it means to be fully human, especially in the frightening and ecstatic world we create behind the darkened bedroom walls.”
—New York Times Book Review
"A novel bursting with love -- collegial, artistic and erotic. John L'Heureux brings to life the bliss and treachery of the Italian Renaissance through prose as passionate as his characters. Deeply enjoyable, THE MEDICI BOY soars like an operatic aria, before breaking our hearts."
—David Henry Hwang, Toby and Obie award winning playwright, of M. Butterfly, FOB, The Dance and The Railroad
"Lust, envy, greed. Pride. Wrath. Set John L’Heureux loose in 15th-century Florence; give him Donatello, Cosimo de Medici, a royal flush of deadly sins, and a boy too handsome for his own good, and watch a master at work, and at play. There is no time and no place and no human transaction that L’Heureux can’t plunder to assemble the kind of novel his fans expect, and his fans-to-be have never before encountered. Luminous, intelligent, funny, shocking, and, yes: revelatory."
—Kathryn Harrison, New York Times Bestselling Author, ENVY, THE SEAL WIFE, THE BINDING CHAIR
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Top customer reviews
This novel wasn't just about Donatello's art, however, but also about his personal life. I suppose most people know he was gay, but did they know how that may have contributed to his greatness? Sex undoubtedly played a role. Perhaps Agnolo, Donatello's off-and-on model and a gay prostitute, is a strictly fictional character, but the author's story makes their relationship seem highly probable. And considering the extraordinarily harsh treatment meted out to sodomites in Florence at the time, Donatello must have lived a somewhat precarious existence. Saved by the Medici connection, in any case.
The novel shows not only how Renaissance artists functioned, but also how patronage of the wealthy was a critical aspect of their success. Multiple factors, then, came together to produce this spectacular Renaissance - and both the economic and the artistic are fascinating.
The other characters in the book provide a vivid picture of life in Florence at the time. Luca, the narrator, contributed significantly to Donatello's success, even though his position as bookkeeper might seem mundane. Even the stories about Luca's life outside the bottega shed light on the times. With a wife and four boys, Luca had a significant private life, but it largely fell apart when two sons were wiped out by the plague, and his wife went into a convent. It was interesting that when the wife stopped having sex with Luca, he immediately took up with prostitutes, as a matter of comfort but not love. This seemed a matter-of-fact way of handling his needs, but did not deter him from continuing to love his wife. One wonders how common this practice was at the time.
All in all, Donatello was unquestionably a world-class talent, but his success depended in no small degree on people - both high and low - around him. 4-1/2 stars.
Time changes so much that you would think there would not be any semblance to our modern society. The technology is apparently
incredible - - the list is endless. electricity, planes, indoor plumbing. The list is enormous. However, people don't change that much. The genes survive and certain goodness and vices, persist. I thoroughly enjoyed the comparison of today's society and that of the 15th Century!