Sunday, February 13, 2011

Masaccio and Monsters, oh my!

I have been focusing my reading mainly on historical fiction this past year. My last read was hereabout Venice.

Historical fiction coincidentally illuminates interestingly provocative historical facts sometimes gleaned over or omitted in the guide books and history books. This is partly my interest in this type of genre. As an example, I have learned an interesting Florentine saying: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered back in." It's an enormously prophetic adage, wouldn't you say?

I am almost finished reading The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, coauthored with retired homicide detective Mario Spezi. The book cover features the Rape of the Sabines by Giovanni da Bologna which is displayed in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. This is what drew me to the book - along with my interest and the fact that the book might uncover local folklore or urban culture regarding Florence. It's actually an account of an investigation covering the years 1951 to 2008 which chronicles the murders and mutilations of unsuspecting romantic couples and suicide and vengeance. Along the way there are snippets of local color and history which embellishes this story. That is if one can embellish the cold, hard garish facts of the case this book brings forth.

Preston draws the analogy of the statues featured on the Piazza della Signoria as one example of Florence being a city of contrasts in what he terms the 'sublime and terrible'. In another example, he cites Florence as the birthplace of the Renaissance and as the instigator of ferocious massacres and bloody wars. I don't mean to say that Preston is anti-Florence. In fact, he moved there and immersed himself and his family in its culture, history and current events.

WIthout becoming too intimidated by the abundance of facts, dates, names and events throughout the book, I am finding it quite interesting. Wondering if anyone who has read this book has a review to offer?


Annie said...

I haven't decided if I want to read it yet. I've heard both raves and lukewarm reviews.

Love the proverb!

sandrac said...

I remember reading excerpts from this book somewhere a few years ago -- maybe Vanity Fair? Or the New Yorker? It seemed interesting, but maybe a bit too grisly. (Serial killers make me very uncomfortable.)

But are you enjoying it? I'll be curious to read your full review when you're finished!

BTW, I just read the Rosetti Letter and I agree with your assessment; an enjoyable read, not too taxing but not too lightweight either.

Trekcapri said...

Hi M, I have not heard of this book. It's sounds like something very different from what I'm used to reading, but uncovering some floklore sounds interesting. Thanks so much for sharing.

girasoli said...

I saw a special on this a couple of years ago on MSNBC. Very grisly! Don't think I have the stomach to read the book.