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Friday, October 17, 2014

Secrecy by Rupert Thomson

This falls into the genre of fictional stories with a historical setting that is largely accurate.  Zummo is an artist who does inspired human renditions in wax.  He has a checkered past and secrets to hide, but he is both an excellent craftsman and an unparalleled artist.  Florence seduces him with a commission to do his greatest work, but also poses a greater danger. An air of menace infects the city around the time of Dante's exile.  The Medici court is the culprit, and there Zummo makes an enemy of sinister Dominican Padre Stufa. Strict laws governing sexual propriety are enforced, and Zummo is not one to follow the Catholic edicts.  Nor is Stufa, but he is a do as I say not as I do kind of tyrant. Jews like Zummo are banished to a ghetto. People are arrested and tortured on hearsay. It is a city of shadows, watchful eyes, and whispering tongues.

It is in this atmosphere that the Grand Duke's asks Zummo to produce a secret commission: he wants the sculptor to make him a lifesize figure of a beautiful young woman, modeled his wife who has left him and whom he mourns.  Zummo throws himself into the commission and in the midst of it he meets arresting young woman.  She turns out to be more than just a convenient model for the Grand Dutchess who has flown the coop, she has a spot within the story. This is light but entertaining, especially if you love Florence and it's art.

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