Secrecy

Secrecy

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
5
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It is Florence, 1691. The Renaissance is long gone, and the city is a dark, repressive place, where everything is forbidden and anything is possible. The Enlightenment may be just around the corner, but knowledge is still the property of the few, and they guard it fiercely. Art, sex and power - these, as always, are the obsessions. Facing serious criminal charges, Gaetano Zummo is forced to flee his native Siracusa at the age of twenty, first to Palermo, then Naples, but always has the feeling that he is being pursued by his past, and that he will never be free of it. Zummo works an artist in wax. He is fascinated by the plague, and makes small wooden cabinets in which he places graphic, tortured models of the dead and dying. But Cosimo III, Tuscany's penultimate Medici ruler, gives Zummo his most challenging commission yet, and as he tackles it his path entwines with that of the apothecary's daughter Faustina, whose secret is even more explosive than his. Poignant but paranoid, sensual yet chilling, Secrecy is a novel that buzzes with intrigue and ideas. It is a love story, a murder mystery, a portrait of a famous city in an age of austerity, an exercise in concealment and revelation, but above all it is a trapdoor narrative, one story dropping unexpectedly into another, the ground always slippery, uncertain
Publisher: London : Granta, c2013.
ISBN: 9781847087652
Characteristics: 312 p. ; 23 cm.

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Pisinga
Sep 08, 2016

The first half of the book has caused a certain irritation; I wanted to throw to keep reading. There was no connection between the periods of time, the narrative jumps from one decade to another, putting in some difficulty to understand - and whose life is described now? It seemed that the book was written in a hurry.
But as you read you find it quite interesting. It is possible, that many things described in the book are fictitious, but in reality, many of the characters described, really existed at the time of the Medici in Florence at the end of the 17th and beginning of 18th centuries.
Love, passion, arts and intrigues at the court...

ChristchurchLib Jun 22, 2014

Summoned to Florence in 1691 by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, Sicilian sculptor Gaetano Zummo is commissioned to create a life-sized wax replica of his patron's ideal woman. Zummo, an artist with a flair for the strange and macabre (his most famous work is a tableau of plague victims), embraces the challenge, even as he gets caught up in a life-changing love affair, a tangled web of political conspiracies, and the persecution of a zealous and corrupt Dominican priest. Drawing on real historical figures and events, this compelling, often unsettling novel conjures the atmosphere of 17th-century Florence through lyrical prose and well-researched period details.
From Historical Fiction Newsletter June 2014.

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Microbes
Apr 05, 2014

This book was recommended in an email from Amazon.

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Sarah1984
Aug 22, 2013

17/08 - I'm enjoying this but at the same time having a few problems with the fact that the situation in Florence isn't properly explained for someone who doesn't already know the history. I was a big fan of the tv series The Borgias, but that is about the extent of my knowledge of Italy prior to the twentieth century. In fact, I've just gained a much better understanding from reading another reviewer's explanation of the atmosphere in Florence at that time. I just wish there was some more background information about why a wax sculpture of nude female was a hanging offense and why Gaetano and Faustina can't be seen together. I don't think it should be up to the reader to do their own research on a subject that is so central to the story, it should be a given that all necessary information is included in the story itself. We shouldn't have to work so hard to understand the plot. To be continued...

18/08 - I found the ending better than I was expecting, but I was sad that (view spoiler). I do think this could have been a better book, but it didn't quite reach it's potential. I wish Gaetano's life with his family, before moving to Florence, had been better explored, because the intimations made by Thomson about Gaetano's life were interesting and I wanted to read more.

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finn75
Jun 27, 2013

I really wasn't too sure what to expect from this book but I was very pleasantly suprised! Engaging characters and an interesting storyline following the issues of a man engaged in a form of art that did not sit well with the social hierachy of the time. The main character is actually based on a real sculptor whose rather gruesome works can still be seen. Worth a read!

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