Thursday, 7 July 2011

Book Review: David by Mary Hoffman

Goodreads description

Michelangelo’s statue of David is famous around the world. Millions flock to Italy every year to admire the physical perfection of the young man captured within the marble. But the identity of the model has never been known . . . until now. In this epic tale, acclaimed author Mary Hoffman imagines the story of Gabriele, a naïve but incredibly handsome young man who is hired as Michelangelo’s model, only to find himself drawn into a world of spies, political treachery, and murder. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Florence in its most turbulent times, this is a rich, colorful and thrilling tale that gives life to one of the world’s greatest masterpieces.

My Review 
I didn't know much about Michaelangelo's David before I heard of Mary Hoffman's new book but upon reading the synopsis, I was intrigued by the concept of exploring the man behind the model of one of the world's most famous works of art when very little is known of him.

Gabriele de Lauri is a young and strapping man in 1501 who has never left his Sedignano country home and has no money to speak of. Setting off on an adventure to the city of Florence, his only hope is of finding his milk brother, the well known sculptor Michaelangelo. Far from just working with his hands to go back with enough money to settle down with his sweetheart, he finds himself entangled in the backstabbing politics of the city and immortalised in the statue that would become to be known as David.

I'd never read any of Hoffman's books before but the way she tackled this story has won me as a fan of hers.  She writes pure quality historical fiction because although there isn't a lot to work with for the character of Gabriele, the life story she fabricates around him was plausible and kept me entertained with political intrigue, loyalties and an appreciation of the work of artists around the time all appearing in the plot. I learnt lots about the political scene of the time with the rivalries of the pro- Medicians and Republicans through her informative and engrossing narrative.

Gabriele was bought to life really well into a complex layered character that seems very plausible for the statue of David, being  handsome and innocent when he arrives fresh from the country. I liked how he wasn't only a man possessed of looks but also intelligence because he learns readily and quickly and has an admirable appreciation for and interest in art. At the beginning he is naive for example he gets robbed on his first night in the city and knows nothing of politics but his character develops hugely and the book sees him through the transition from a boy to a man. Despite the mistakes he makes- mainly involving fidelity- it is hard not to like him because he is always well meaning at heart and has a lovely sense of humour.

Real life characters such Michaelangelo also feature and his is depicted as a man just like any other who needs to earn his living but is lucky to be doing what he loves. His relationship with Gabriele was strong and it was interesting to read their brotherly banter and affection towards each other. Another historical character was Leonardo da Vinci in the middle of creating his masterpiece the Mona Lisa and I loved finding out about the story of who modelled for the painting. Art lovers will especially enjoy the artistic elements and I found that they added a depth of reality to the story.

The fast placed plot lives up to the characters with many twists and turns as Gabriele is embroiled with the political strongholds in the city and finds himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position as he works out who he can really trust and faces the consequences of his mistakes.The adventurous nature had me in suspense as to the fate of the characters as it wasn't at all predictable.

Through the detailed writing, I was sucked into Renaissance Florence with the artistic splendour and darker side of the city becoming lifelike and bouncing off the pages. Ever since I visited Rome and Milan last year, I've loved Italy and have a tie to it because my mum lived there for a while and a close friend of mine lives there too. So David's beautiful Italian setting is to die for! It has made me long to visit Florence to see the streets described in this book for myself and I think it would be heard to read it without wishing to.

The one thing that I didn't like so much about this book was the sexual elements in the story because although they are realistic of the time nothing was really graphic, the detail that is there could have been toned down to make it more suitable for younger teenagers like me. Unfortunately, it did affect my enjoyment and detracted from the rest of the story for me. It's because of this that I would only recommend David to the upper teen/YA audience even though I'm at the lower end.

Verdict/ Speed Read:  I thoroughly enjoyed the strong and intriguing plot, thrilling pace, and gorgeous Italian setting of David. It was especially refreshing in the historical genre and I don't think it's appeal will be limited to just a YA audience. I am looking forward to reading Hoffman's other books and I'm hoping to read Troubadour this summer as I have it on my shelf!

Rating: 4 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

If you like the sound of David, check out the blog tour for it that's happening for it at the moment and will be stopping by here next week by clicking on the picture below.



  1. I have an advance copy of the US edition which is coming out in October but I still need to read it. It does sound good though!

  2. What an interesting concept, this sounds like a good read! Thanks for the great review x

  3. Great review, Stephanie!

    I'm reading this one at the moment, and enjoying it so far!

  4. I'm so glad I read your review! This is a book that I would have totally passed over because it looks boring and slow to me. I never would have guessed at the fast pace and political intrigue you mention, but that sounds like exactly my kind of book! I also really like that there's so much to learn. Thanks so much!


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