Release date: 4th July 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
Summary from Amazon:Michelangelo's statue of David is renowned all over the world. Thousands flock to Florence to admire the artistry behind this Renaissance masterpiece, and to admire the beauty of the human form captured in the marble. But the identity of the model for this statue that has been so revered for over five hundred years has been lost ...In this epic story Mary Hoffman uses her persuasive narrative skills to imagine the story of Gabriele, an eighteen-year-old who, by becoming Michelangelo's model, finds himself drawn into a world of spies, politicking, sabotage and murder. Set against the backdrop of Florence, this is a rich, colourful and thrilling tale.
David is a vivid historical novel; it is both a coming of age story and an exploration of the Florentine politics of the sixteenth century. It is a wonder of a book and refreshingly different.
David is actually the story of Gabriele, the milk-brother of the famous artist and sculptor Michelangelo. Gabriele is eighteen when he leaves his home, Settignano, a small village, and arrives in the city of Florence in search of work as a stone-cutter. Gabriele is a naive young man who lacks a practical understanding of the wider world. He is easily led and also rather fickle with his affections. He left his fifteen year old sweetheart, Rosalia, in the village and he does not remain faithful to her. In fact, on his first night in Florence after being robbed, he is taken in by an aristocratic lady, Clarice, and is seduced by her. Michelangelo is away with his work but eventually he returns to Florence and Gabriele takes residence with him and his brothers.
Angelo, as Gabriele calls him, is an intriguing character. The author gives us an interpretation of the man as being highly protective of his creative work and also involved in it to the point of obsession. Angelo is renowned for his abilities and this novel is also partly his visualisation of the statue of David. Angelo takes an abandoned piece of marble and turns it into a mighty symbol of the Florentine republic. The two years it takes to complete the statue take Gabriele on a journey. He sets out an innocent, uneducated boy, embarrassed by his own beauty and unworldly in matters of the heart. As he poses for Angelo and becomes the face of David, he learns to be comfortable in his naked form and learns the true nature of love – in many forms – love of fine art, parental love, faithful love, brotherly love and love of a cause. Gabriele learns to act with the courage of David.
Before reading David, I had heard of course of the statue. But being rather a Neanderthal where art is concerned, I actually had no idea that it represents the biblical David conquering the giant Goliath. I felt like this book educated me about the beauty of fine art and the incredible meaning behind it. Hoffman communicated the moment of connection with a piece of art so evocatively that I feel inspired to try to see the story hidden inside. I would now also love to go to Florence and see the statue. I feel as if I have already walked those streets and seen stone-cutters covered in the fine powder of their craft such is the author’s power to transport you to the very heart and place of the story.
David is a complex and challenging novel. Its themes are more in tune with older teens than younger. I think it would make an excellent adult crossover as there are so many layers here to enjoy. Those who are questioning the establishment and revelling in revolutionary ideals will find a solace and honest reflection in David. Written with an exceptional sense of setting and with an artist’s passion, David will move and enchant you.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Books for sending the book to review.
Read for the British Books Challenge 2011