Rupert Thomson. Other Press, $16.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59051-685-0
Beautifully evocative prose (“A burnt-orange sun dropped, trembling, from behind a bank of cloud, like something being born”) makes this unusual historical novel truly memorable. In 1691, a mysterious artist known as Zummo, or Zumbo, with a taste for the macabre, is summoned to Florence by Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. After viewing a typically grim sample of Zummo’s work, a tableau in wax depicting plague victims in various stages of deterioration (titled The Triumph of Time), Cosimo hires Zummo to craft a realistic-looking, life-sized woman out of wax. The commission rubs Dominican cleric Stufa, the spiritual adviser to Cosimo’s mother, the wrong way. Subsequent court intrigue turns deadly, and, throughout, the reader wonders about the prologue, set in 1701, in which Zummo meets the abbess of a convent in Orléans, Marguerite-Louise, whom he confronts with news of her secret daughter before launching into a flashback to his involvement with the Grand Duke. But the plot twists take a back seat to the complex picture Thomson gives of his oddball protagonist, a man given to wandering around carrying “little theaters filled with...the dead and dying” in the name of art. Agent: Peter Straus, RCW Literary. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/10/2014
Release date: 04/22/2014
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 184 pages - 978-1-59051-686-7
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