Life and times of a handsome young man in Florence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2011, 12:00am


By Mary Hoffman
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 0052 2

Michelangelo's statue of the biblical hero David is famous all over the world.

The sculpture has stood in Florence for more than 500 years but the identity of the young man who modelled for it is still a mystery.

In David, her new novel for older teens, Mary Hoffman suggests some interesting possible answers. Florence in 1501 was brimming with political intrigue. The former city rulers, the de Medici family, had been exiled in disgrace and a republic established.

The city was divided between pro-Medici and pro-republican factions. It was dangerous to be on either side. The one thing that could bring the city together was art - Florence wanted to be Italy's most beautiful, fashionable city.

Meanwhile, Gabriele, 18, arrives in the city from the countryside. He is very innocent, and soon gets robbed. But Gabriele learns he has one thing that he can rely on to save him in almost any situation. He is a very handsome young man, and he starts to use his looks to great advantage. A wealthy young widow has been watching him, and soon moves him into her household. This is his first step into Florentine society.

Other women have their eye on Gabriele, and his fame as a handsome, available young man soon spreads.

Almost by accident, he is given the job of posing for a new statue that the sculptor Michelangelo is planning to carve. Gabriele doesn't realise how much this will change his life - or the enormous danger he faces as he gets sucked into the city's politics and deadly rivalries.

Hoffman writes classy, lively historical fiction for young adult readers, and David is enthralling from the first page. Florence is as much a character in the novel as the people, and Hoffman's love of the city and its art is evident on every page.

Florence, with all its politics, intrigue and love of art, really comes alive in the author's hands. She skilfully puts actual historical figures and fictional characters side by side.

David is exciting, well-researched and surprisingly easy to read considering how much is going on. It does contain some adult themes and is recommended for older teens and young adults.