In 1501 Gabriele, a country boy, arrives in Florence and is immediately robbed. He believes that his older ‘milk’ brother, the artist Michelangelo, might help him but, before he can seek his support, a wealthy widow wines, dines and sleeps with him. So from the outset Gabriele emerges as a handsome, easily infatuated and quite naïve young man. As his story unfolds he shares his aspirations with the reader and admits his weaknesses as he tries to please the women in his life, the family of Michelangelo (Angelo) and those whose political aspirations he eventually shares. Gabriele’s good looks not only make him desirable but enable him to serve as a model for Angelo’s David. Through Angelo he meets other contemporary artists and becomes aware of their views. As he learns more about the exiled de’Medici family and the opposing supporters of the republic, he is drawn into a web of deceit and his involvement with politics eventually spells danger for him and those he learns to care for.
Hoffman paints a graphic picture of Florence at the turn of the 16th century as seen through the eyes of the fictional Gabriele, who reminisces about his part in the city politics during this eventful period. Although the narrative is easy to follow and chatty, the research is thorough so facts mingle with fiction to make a compelling read. If the different characters are confusing or the Italian phrases become too complicated to understand, there is a glossary and list of characters which can be referred to so the plot is not lost.
This engaging book, by the author of The Stravaganza Sequence, will satisfy many readers of historical fiction and should appeal to Renaissance art lovers and those with an interest in Italy and its turbulent history.