Synopsis: 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 murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save Donatello, even his master’s friend--the great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.
My thoughts: The Medici Boy was a conflicting read for me. There is a very clear mastery in the book. Firstly, of first-person writing, the use of which was well justified, I found. L'Heureux wrote more showing than telling. He also mastered the feel of Renaissance Florence, and Donatello's workshop. Many writers could learn from the simple, stripped down focus and immersion he brings to the reader.
As for the historical aspect, everything is kept in accurate reference, and aligns very well with the time period and sequence of events. But it is this accuracy that brings up the controversy. Sodomy frequented the streets of Italy, despite being a severe crime. Near the start of the book, graphic detail becomes overbearing and unnecessary, in my opinion, and is brought up too often later on as well. Yes, this book concerns the forbidden, but there were still unnecessary sequences that put me off. The other part of the historical accuracy concerned the artwork of Donatello, his processes of creating it, and the political patronage who supported it: Cosimo de' Medici. This is the part I enjoyed the most; I was able to see the Italian Renaissance workshop beauty and atmosphere.
I loved how this was a simple story about a simple, yet privileged man. There were no world-altering events, drastic secrets revealed, or wildest dreams realized. It was the life and story of a man who had the privilege of knowing Donatello, and what he did with it.
One aspect that readers have reported having trouble with is associating with the characters, Luca especially. I, on the other hand, think that the characters were well illustrated, but Luca was illustrated through the others. If you remember, this is a recounting of events by Luca himself. He wouldn't write excessively about himself, being from that era. Like many other real authors, his writings would reveal himself through others he wrote about. I respect L'Heureux for taking advantage of this. There were a few times, though, where current novel style showed through, from Luca's hinting at future events. This detracted from the atmosphere of the time period, as I doubt this would be done in such a memoir as often as he did it.
In conclusion, I don't recommend this to anyone uncomfortable with the topic of sodomy, as it plays a large part in this novel, as it did historically. But, if you can stomach this, the era immersion is wonderful, and so are the characters.
*This book was provided free by the publisher and Blue Dot Literary. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*
My rating: 4 stars