Showing posts with label Mary Hoffman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary Hoffman. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blog Tour: David

I'm very pleased to welcome Mary Hoffman to Teenage Fiction For All Ages today for the latest stop on the David blog tour.

My review of David is here

You can contact or follow Mary at:

Over to Mary and More Italian favourites:

I spent half my life learning Italian, on and off but didn’t get serious about it until I took A level in 2000. We moved to Oxfordshire the following year and I found a wonderful weekly class in Oxford, called Reading Italian Literature. The idea was to keep up the language while having something more interesting to talk about than train time-tables.

So I’ve now been attending that class for ten years and have read so many books, stories and poems, written so many essays and had so many “assessed discussions” that I have collected enough CATs points to – perhaps – buy a toaster.

I have read literature that I had never come across before by authors I had not even heard of. And I have a fantastic teacher. In 2003 I won an essay prize that enabled me to go to Florence for a month on a course at the European Institute, in the lee of the great cathedral. That echoed something I had done many years earlier in my first summer vacation from university. Only at twenty I was a “beginner” and on the later occasion “level five.”

The main thing I retain from that course is that my Italian was much worse at the end than at the beginning – because I knew just how much I was getting wrong!

But still, I can now read a novel without using a dictionary, just for the story, So I have come a long way from the teenager on a beach in the Italian Riviera who had to converse with a boyfriend in a mixture of French and Latin.

My five favourite Italian words

Magari! = “If only” or “as if!”

Bidonario = someone who fails to turn up (literally an empty-water-container-carrier!)

Chiaroscuro = the use of light and shade in Renaissance paintings

Terribilità = the expression on David’s face

Rinascimento = “Renaissance” = “rebirth”

• My five favourite Italian books (all adult)

Two of these I read in my Oxford class, one for A level, one I read as a teenager – in English – and one I found for myself.

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (Le Città Invisibili)

My favourite book by my most favourite Italian writer. When I first read it, I had to put it down after every paragraph or two because it so filled my head with ideas for books of my own. He had the most wonderful imagination and was always unpredictable.

Primo Levi’s If This is a Man (Se Questo è un Uomo)

I resisted this book for many years, thinking it would be just too unbearable to read. But the other students in my A level class chose it in preference to the Leopard (see below), so I had to. And I loved it. I voluntarily read The Truce afterwards and have read many other books by this great man, as well as four biographies.

Antonio Tabucchi’s According to Pereira (Sostiene Pereira)

This was my first set book on my Oxford course and it remains a great favourite. A good book on a serious subject: the moment in life when a person must act, in spite of his reluctance to get involved in politics.

Giuseppe Tommasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)

This was the one I read when I was still a teenager and loved from day one. It was only on my course that I found out how reactionary Italian intellectuals consider it to be. (I still love it).

Giorgio Bassani The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini)

I didn’t rate this highly when I read it in English, finding it a bit Proust-lite. But when we studied it in my class, I was moved by it and bought the rest of the “Story of Ferrara” Bassani’s five linked novels.

• My five favourite Italian films

Federico Fellini’s 81/2 (Otto e mezzo)

When I was at university, this film, and Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, Godard’s Alphaville – these were the smart art house movies you were supposed to like if you were clever. And I did like the Fellini; it is still, with Jules et Jim, my favourite film.

Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)

I saw this only a few years ago when it came to the art house cinema in Oxford, but it’s very close in spirit to the book.

Roberto Faenza’s Sostiene Pereira (According to Pereira)

This, like the Fellini, stars Marcello Mastroianni, at the opposite end of his career. Once a matinee idol, he is now able to be the paunchy, pouchy-eyed Pereira, the good man who is not prepared to do nothing and let evil prevail.

Gabriele Salvatores’ Io non ho Paura (I am not Scared)

This is another film based on one of our set books, this one by Niccolò Ammaniti, who collaborated on the screenplay. Both book and film excellent.

Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars

Does this even count? The first “spaghetti western,” starring Clint Eastwood, on whom I had a huge crush as a schoolgirl, when he was in the TV series Rawhide. Leone took a whole genre and invested it with elegance and style – something the Italians are very good at.

Many thanks to Mary and Bloomsbury for arranging this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: David by Mary Hoffman

David by Mary Hoffman (July 2011, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, ISBN: 1408800527)

Review: The David of the title is Michelangelo's famous statue in Florence and this is the fictional story of the model who posed for it and the heady times he lived in for the few years he spent in Florence.

The man behind the face is actually Gabriele who has a close connection with Angelo, as Angelo was wet-nursed by Gabriele's mother; they are milk brothers. Gabriele is a stone-cutter and leaves his family and first love to go to Florence to earn money.

He is only 18 and naive with it. On his arrival in the city he finds himself robbed and then taken in by a widow who looks after him in return for certain duties.

When he finally gets to stay with Angelo, he is told he must choose a political side as the city is divided between those who want the return of the Medici family as ruler, and the republicans.

Gabriele's beauty has him in demand for modelling and gains him access to important homes and gradually he becomes a spy not really realising the danger he's in. And all the time the giant David statue is coming to life and causing practical and political problems of its own. (See photo for scale.)

David is a very readable and fascinating look at Florence during the early 1500s and I've certainly learnt a lot. Gabriele is fairly ignorant so the political situation is, thankfully, explained to him and thus to the reader. Other artists of the time make appearances, in particular Leonardo da Vinci who paints his most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa, during this time. Mary Hoffman has taken a few wisps of fact and constructed a tightly-plotted, plausible scenario for the life behind one of the most well-known faces in the artistic world.

NB. There is a warning on the back stating not suitable for younger readers.

Also of possible interest to a prospective reader of David is the (adult) novel, The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra which is set a few years earlier in Milan and revolves around a hidden meaning in da Vinci's The Last Supper. I read it a few years ago and enjoyed it.