Book - 2013
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Random House, Inc.
A sorcerer in wax. A fugitive. Haunted by a past he cannot escape. Threatened by a future he cannot imagine.

Zummo, a Sicilian sculptor, is summoned by Cosimo III to join the Medici court. Late seventeenth-century Florence is a hotbed of repression and hypocrisy. All forms of pleasure are brutally punished, and the Grand Duke himself, a man for whom marriage has been an exquisite torture, hides his pain beneath a show of excessive piety.

The Grand Duke asks Zummo to produce a life-size woman out of wax, an antidote to the French wife who made him suffer so. As Zummo wrestles with this unique commission, he falls under the spell of a woman whose elusiveness mirrors his own, but whose secrets are far more explosive. Lurking in the wings is the poisonous Dominican priest, Stufa, who has it within his power to destroy Zummo’s livelihood, if not his life.

In this highly charged novel, Thomson brings Florence to life in all its vibrant sensuality, while remaining entirely contemporary in his exploration of the tensions between love and solitude, beauty and decay. When reality becomes threatening, not to say unfathomable, survival strategies are tested to the limit. Redemption is a possibility, but only if the agonies of death and separation can be transcended.

Baker & Taylor
In seventeenth-century Florence, Zummo, a Sicilian sculptor, is secretly charged by the Grand Duke to create a life-size wax replica of a woman and finds himself surrounded by a web of jealousies and betrayals, as he takes a lover and is shadowed by a mysterious priest.

& Taylor

Summoned by Cosimo III to join the repressive Medici court of the late 17th century, Sicilian sculptor Zummo is commissioned to make a life-sized wax figure of the Grand Duke's French wife only to become enamored of his mysterious subject and endure targeting by a vindictive Dominican priest. Reprint.

Publisher: London : Granta, c2013
ISBN: 9781847087652
Branch Call Number: FIC THO
Characteristics: 312 p. ;,23 cm.


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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.

Apr 05, 2014

This book was recommended in an email from Amazon.

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.

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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