May 6, 2014

Book Review: THE MEDICI BOY by John L'Heureux

The Medici Boy
Title: The Medici Boy by John L'Heureux
Published April 1, 2014; Astor + Blue Editions
Genre: historical fiction

Michelozzo's wedding was the occasion for another of those Medici interventions in the lives of artisans that have produced astonishing works, like Donatello's bronze David or the frescoes of Fra Angelico or the Madonnas of Filippo Lippi whom Cosimo locked in a room and refused to let out until he had made progress with his painting. These would never have existed without Cosimo's insistence. And his money.

The art patron in question is Cosimo de'Medici, the wealthy and influential banker in Renaissance Florence, who commissioned the sculptor Donatello to make a bronze statue of David, the statue that gave the author the idea for this book, The Medici Boy. The title of the book does not refer to Donatello or to David, however, but to a fictional character in the book - the handsome young Agnolo, who is the model for the David sculpture.

The Medici Boy is about the works of Donatello in one part, the history of the Medicis in Florence in the early 15th century in another, and in yet another, a fiction about Donatello's personal life and loves during a time when love between men or between men and boys was punishable by death.

The Night Officers were not men to antagonize.... Donatello seemed not to realize this. His infatuation with Agnolo had in truth become a kind of madness. (ch. 33)

The fictional narrator Luca observes Donatello and Agnolo with great care and with some jealousy. He works as the keeper of accounts and helper in Donatello's workshop in Florence and later in Padua. We see everything through his eyes, and he has his own intriguing personal story to tell also.

I recommend the book not only for its historical information on the life of a great artist and his wealthy Medici supporter, but also for its social implications which extend to our own time. The author's fluid narration and his command of language made this informative and thought provoking novel both a challenge and a delight to read. I was a little scared I would not do justice to the book, so I will add this link to the recent Washington Post's review (which I have not yet read). It should add more.

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).

The Medici Boy Readers Guide
Video Trailer for the book

Thanks to publishers Astor + Blue for a review copy of this book for their book tour.

John L'Heureux


Suko said...

Harvee, this book does sound thought-provoking. Very nice presentation!

Brian Joseph said...

This sounds like great and substantive book. The Medici's were so important and I really need to read a coherent history on them.

Obviously the book also delves into seriously important social and humanistic issues, which is something that I think books should do.

Book of Secrets said...

Sounds like a compelling read, especially since it addresses issues that are still relevant today. Nice review.

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