Love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue — Just the way a 15th century novel should read.
Story blurb: 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.
About the author: John L’Heureux has served on both sides of the writing desk: as staff editor and contributing editor for The Atlantic and as the author of sixteen books of poetry and fiction. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have frequently been anthologized in Best American Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. His experiences as editor and writer inform and direct his teaching of writing. Since 1973, he has taught fiction writing, the short story, and dramatic literature at Stanford. In 1981, he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and again in 1998. His recent publications include a collection of stories, Comedians, and the novels, The Handmaid of Desire (1996), Having Everything (1999), and The Miracle (2002).
Review by Gerry Burnie
When I think of 15th century Italy and the Medicis, I think of people dressed in cloaks, skulking about on nefarious errands, as well as Roman-nosed clergy and medieval nobility indulging themselves on sumptuous living, intrigue and lust. Happily, John L’Heureux captures all this in his latest book, Medici Boy [Astor + Blue Editions, LLC.; 1 edition, April 7, 2014].
It is told from the point of view of Luca Mettei, Donato Donatello’s fictional assistant. Most everyone will recognize that Donatello (c. 1386 – December 13, 1466) was the Florentine sculptor who created, among other masterpieces, the first free-standing nude sculpture since the Classical Greek era—the beautiful and enigmatic David and Goliath.
What makes the story intriguing is that L’Heureux has went behind the bronze to give it a personality; that of the radiantly beautiful and nymph-like model, Agnolo. Indeed, when you compare L’Heureux’s creation to the perceived personality of the statue, the similarity is remarkable. There is the same Narcissistic and self-centred beauty that could very well attract the unwary to their doom, and in this case, Agnolo himself..
Other notable characters add a measure of intrigue, as well. For example, Cosimo de Medici, the inspiration for Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, was banker to the Vatican, enormously wealthy, a political manipulator extraordinaire, and patron of the arts. It was he who commissioned Donatello’s David for his garden.
Beside all this cloak-and-dagger intrigue, honour and loyalty also exist—as in Mattei’s loyalty to his master, Donatello. In this story Mattei is heterosexual, but in an age where the lines were sometimes blurred, on can image an affectionate love (at least) between the two.
Indeed, it has all the ingredients of a Florentine caper, i.e. love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue. Four and one-half stars.
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