"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Medici Boy by John L'Heureux

The Medici Boy
Author:  John L'Heureux
Published:  April 2014
Publisher:  Astor+ Blue Editions LLC
Pages:  336
ISBN:  9781938231506

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. John L’Heureux’s long-awaited novel delivers both a monumental and intimate narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers. With incisive detail, L’Heureux beautifully renders the master sculptor’s forbidden homosexual passions, and the artistry that enthralled the powerful and highly competitive Medici and Albizzi families. The finished work is a sumptuously detailed historical novel that entertains while it delves deeply into both the sacred and the profane within one of the Italian Renaissance’s most consequential cities, fifteenth century Florence.

Donatello: Art, Pain, Passion, Murder
Renowned Literary Writer Renders Controversial Life of
Mysterious Renaissance Genius

My thoughts

Thoroughly researched, The Medici Boy is a historical fiction novel ideally suited for the art connoisseur and/or a history buff.  This novel takes place in renaissance Italy and is told through the voice of young Luca Mattei.  His relationship with Donatello goes beyond that of a mere assistant as he watches the sculptor carve and create masterpieces.  Another side of Donatello is visited as well as his forbidden passions are brought to light.  Jealousy and conflict arise and Luca finds he would sacrifice anything, even another's life, for Donatello; such is his loyalty.
Donatello's sculpture of David

I was excited to read about Italy in the renaissance ages, of the incredible art of that time, and of Donatello.  I could imagine the architecture, the land, the people and this was appealing to me as a reader.  

Donatello was commissioned by Cosimo De'Medici to sculpt a statue of David, as in David and Goliath of the bible.  In 1430, Donatello completed a life-size nude depicting a triumphant David after battle.  He called the piece "Triumphant David."

The author, Mr. LH'eureux, upon visiting Italy and seeing the statue of David,  thought that someone must write the story behind the sculpture and of the artist Donatello.  That someone turned out to be him.  Mr. LH'eureux wrote this novel based upon the assumption of Donatello's homosexuality,  using historical research to help support this possibility, drawing upon the fact that during this period in time and in the city of Florence this was punishable by death.  

The beginning of this novel was challenging for me to really immerse myself in.  I found it difficult to build a reader/character relationship but it may be just me.  However, if you love art history and want to know more about the master sculptor/artist Donatello, look for The Medici Boy because beneath this fictionalized plot, lies a glimpse into the life and time of one of the undoubtedly most famous and gifted of artists. 

Meet the author

Award-winning poet, novelist, and short story writer, John L’Heureux has taught at Georgetown University, Tufts, Harvard, and (for more than 35 years) in the English Department of Stanford University where he was Lane Professor of Humanities.  There he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and earned it again in 1998.
A prolific writer, L’Heureux has written more than twenty books of fiction, short fiction and poetry.  His works have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have been included in dozens of anthologies including Best American Storiesand Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards.
John L’Heureux has twice received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2006 he was awarded a Guggenheim Grant to do research for The Medici Boy, his new novel.  
He is retired and lives in Palo Alto with his wife Joan.

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