Wednesday, May 7, 2014

THE MEDICI BOY by John L'Heureux

After a mere few pages of his astonishing piece of historical fiction, The Medici Boy, one realizes why John L’Heureux has been described as “one of America’s greatest living writers.” af  We are visually and emotionally transported to Renaissance Italy and the bottega or workshop of Donatello who is arguably one of the greatest artists of all time.  We see everything through the eyes of Luca Mattei, an assistant who would sacrifice all to protect his master.

It is at this time and place that art, politics and passion run a dangerous course as  described by L’Heureux who expertly explores the sacred and profane in 15th century Florence, one of Italy’s most important cities.  Donatello’s creative powers know no equal as he labors to create his great bronze statue of David and Goliath for the garden of his friend and benefactor, Cosimo de’ Medici.  Add to this intriguing mix the competition between Florence’s two most powerful families - the Medicis and the Albizzis.  One has plotted for years to get rid of his hated rival.

Donatello works while a vicious witch-hunt against gay men goes on in Florence - if caught the punishment is a long painful death witnessed by a jeering crowd.  Yet Donatello is inescapably drawn to his beautiful model and rent boy, Agnolo, a street-smart amoral lad who well knows his power over the artist and wields it for his own amusement and gain.  Naturally, unbridled jealousy soon arises in the workshop, an emotion that may well lead to murder.

While all of L’Heureux’s characters are impeccably drawn his depiction of Luca is especially compelling as the assistant finds himself deeply involved in the life of his master and greatly conflicted as events unfold.   For this reader The Medici Boy is truly a masterpiece, an ambitious, intelligent, beautiful novel not to be missed.

- Gail Cooke

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