Bookit Review: David by Mary Hoffman

I picked up this book because it kept catching my attention as I passed the new teen book display at my library. History and art were two of my favourite subjects in school, and discovering a YA novel that sought to tell the story of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David was immediately appealing.

From Goodreads:

Michelangelo’s statue, 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 naive 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 rich, colorful, thrilling tale gives life to one of the world’s greatest masterpieces.

I would recommend this book for (15+) YA fans that want to be taken back to the time period of the Italian renaissance, who want to get to know the personality of Michelangelo and his feelings towards fellow artist and side character Leonardo da Vinci. David is written with a researched historical undertone, layered with an adventurous story line containing elements of friendship, vanity, sex, war, and personal growth and discovery. Thus, the reader does not have to have a previous knowledge of these artists work to enjoy Hoffman’s story of the sculpture David, but it may inspire them to learn more about this history period afterwards.

The story unwinds from the reflections of Gabrielle, now an elderly man, but once a beautiful young man (18 turning 19), who moved to Florence to discover more of the world than what he had as a rural stone cutter living a modest life attached to his teenage sweetheart girl friend. He is taken in by his milk brother* Angelo (aka Michelangelo) who is immediately inspired by his physique to use him as a model for his work.  Angelo is not the only one who appreciates his looks, and Gabrielle quickly becomes involved in sexual affairs (which are referred to but not described), and the inescapable political wars that ensue between those of the wealthy aristocratic Medici following and those fighting for the Republic.

I do not want to give too much away, so I will keep my likes and dislikes short and hopefully spoiler plot free. I really enjoyed the parts of the story where Gabrielle got to learn more about artwork, the passion and conviction in which those around him worked, as well as his own learning experience. I enjoyed how the storyline included famous artwork that we still appreciated today. Learning about history can be dry if it only contains dates, names, and events. Hoffman’s David, although fictional helped bring to life the stories hidden in lectures I remember sitting at and finding extremely confusing with all the different Italian regions, popes, art movements and so on.  David does contain its share of Italian character’s and terms, but there is an index to help keep readers on track. However, I must admit while I enjoyed the historical aspects, I found that at times it could cause the story to flounder and become slow because of these attributes. 

Gabrielle was a young man facing a large learning curve of life lessons, and he learned these lessons often through poor choices. Should he follow others, or make up his own mind? Should he be influenced by riches and beauty or something more? Despite the flaws in his character, he was also able to show redeemable qualities that made the story worthwhile.

I give it 3 out of 5



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