Posted by: Marita Thomson | January 3, 2008

The Medici Curse

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by Matt Chamings, Faber, 2007 

This book pulls you in right from page one to 15th Century Florence – the Italy of Leonardo and the Medicis. It is a world of high culture, discovery, and violence on the streets. We see the home of the Medici, the leading family of the city, through the eyes of Arnaldo, a rising apprentice artist. But he is also the secret survivor of a rival family, the Pazzi, and hellbent on avenging his dead father.

The next chapter was at first a let down, bringing us back to modern times as an English/Italian family visit Florence enroute to the family home in San Arnaldo. This is the pattern of the book and quite quickly the balance seems right, as the links between the two stories move from tenuous threads to interleaved pages of an old story coming together.

Art, love, religion and a touch of the supernatural all combine to develop this intriguing mystery to a satisfying conclusion. Arnaldo’s revenge is curbed by a combination of blossoming love for Medici’s daughter and a grudging respect for his enemy. Meanwhile in the present, Maria and her father are strangely drawn to a terrible old painting they buy in an old shop in San Arnaldo. What they discover is a much more powerful work beneath the surface. In both world’s events escalate with frightening consequences.

This book will intrigue lovers of history, art or mystery. Whilst reading I was reminded with some satisfaction of a range of other books including Libby Hathorn’s The Painter, Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, Prochownik’s Dream by Alex Miller, Troy by Adele Geras and Catherine Jinks’ Pagan Chronicles, just for starters. But it is the mystery which builds the interest and speeds you to the end of this book.

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