A stirring and emotionally resonant portrait of a pivotal relationship in the life of Michelangelo.

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When poet Vittoria Colonna meets Michelangelo, they discover a deep and profound connection in this historical novel.

Michelangelo is revered for his sculptures and paintings, and by 1534, his reputation is unparalleled. Summoned to Rome by Pope Clement VII, the artist prepares to work on the pontiff’s legacy, the Last Judgment, a fresco depicting the second coming of Jesus. One afternoon, Michelangelo encounters a woman with a face that “suggests an intimacy with anguish.” The striking woman is Colonna, a poet and widow of military leader Ferrante Francesco d’Avalos. Thoughtful and brilliant, she was raised on the island of Ischia by Ferrante’s aunt, Costanza d’Avalos. Colonna’s marriage to Ferrante cemented a political alliance between her family and King Ferdinand of Spain. Since Ferrante’s death, Colonna has lived in seclusion, writing poetry and preserving her husband’s legacy. She is reluctant to rejoin society until a monk asks her to travel to Rome and advocate for the Capuchin order. Michelangelo admires Colonna and her poetry, and he asks for her advice interpreting the imagery in the Last Judgment. From this collaboration, an enduring and loving bond develops between Colonna and Michelangelo that sustains them through ongoing political and religious conflicts and personal tragedy. Cardillo’s (Island Legacy, 2017, etc.) latest book is a sweeping historical epic and a sensitively observed exploration of the passionate friendship between Colonna and Michelangelo. At one point the poet muses: “Michelangelo’s conversational style is like that of a surgeon with a knife about to slit open my chest to observe my beating heart. I am both fascinated and terrified by his questions.” Ambitious in scope, the narrative covers 1500 to 1547, shifting between their relationship and Colonna’s childhood and adolescence on the island of Ischia, her marriage to Ferrante and his betrayal of her trust, and her development as a poet. While Colonna and Michelangelo’s friendship forms the emotional center of the novel, the poet’s story and her journey as a woman and a writer are dynamic and multilayered. The author also does a fine job exploring the religious views that inform Colonna’s and Michelangelo’s lives and works as well as the tension between the Roman Catholic Church and the writers and clergy who seek to reform it.

A stirring and emotionally resonant portrait of a pivotal relationship in the life of Michelangelo.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-942209-54-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Bellastoria Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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