Monday, August 10, 2009

Leonardo's Shadow by Christopher Grey


15th Century Milan comes to life in this novel by Christopher Grey. As I was reading it I immediately thought that this would be a great book for our Global I historical fiction project. From what little I know, and now I would like to know more, this seems to be an accurate depiction of this time period. I like how the author intertwined details about the politics, religion, customs, and geography of this time period. Perhaps our global bloggers can comment? I also liked learning about alchemy and paint-making. I also felt it nicely combined adventure and mystery, and I liked Giacomo's voice as narrator (although, you know me, I wanted to know who his parents were, and what happened to him! :-) )

However, there were a few things that bothered me. The author alludes to Leonardo's sexuality, either that needed to be addressed or it should have been left out. I wish there was an author's note at the end to explain this and some of the historical aspects of the book- for example, was there really a problem with the last supper?

Do I think this book would have a wide range appeal? Probably not, but for fans of historical fiction, or for those required to read this genre, this would be great. I think it moved along quickly, there was plenty of action, and most students would be familiar enough with DaVinci, The Last Supper, Michelangelo, etc...to make the book more meaningful. Overall, I liked it! Wondering what the consensus was!?

8 comments:

Dawn said...

Historical fiction is not for me. I really could not get into this book. The first chapter started off strong, and I thought it would be action packed. Unfortunately I felt let down. While reading I tried to think of whom I could recommend this book to, and I could not think of a single student.

I did like Giacomo. Like Kathy, I wanted him to find his parents. It was a huge let down in the end without an answer. I was semi-happy that Leonardo was not his father because he was too mean to him. When I did think Leonardo was his father, I was angered because I thought it was terrible that he would use his son as his servant. Overall Leonardo thought he was better than everyone else and treated people poorly, and I did not like that because I like to think of the artist as a great person too.

I am interested to hear what everyone else thought because I was really struggling with this book. It was way to slow for me. Hopefully someone can open up my eyes to another view.

Cherie said...

I liked this book, I did not love it, but it held my attention enough that I read it in two days. I do think that it would be a great book for the Global I project as the language is not so difficult for freshmen to comprehend. Also, many of the historical terms could be brought up and discussed in class.

I was semi-hoping that Leonardo was Giacomo's father because I wanted him to find his parents and possibly remember his background, but I also hoped he was not his father because he treated Giacomo like such an inferior. I wished the author would have brought some closure to the mystery of Giacomo's parents. Another thing that was left dangling was Giacomo's relationship with Emilia. I would have liked something more with that.

This book intrigued me enough that when I finished reading I powered up the computer and did a little research on the Duke, The Last Supper, and more paintings by Leonardo. So I think this book would do the same for our students!

cvanslyk said...

I like historical fiction and really enjoyed this book. The history was very interesting to me especially after traveling to Italy. I liked Giacomo and Caterina but found Leonando very annoying. It was a long time before he explained why it was taking him so long to paint "The Last Supper". His attitude toward all the people he owed money to was also annoying. When he left Giacoma and Caterina with no food or money, he showed himself to be very self centered and not caring about the two people who really loved him. I still would like to believe that Leonardo and Cecilia were Giacomo's parents and that they were trying to protect him from something. Leonardo did explain later in the book that Giacomo was "unruly" as a young child and this caused him to be very harsh with him. I never did understand why Leonardo refused to give Giacomo painting lessons for such a long time.

For students who like historical fiction, this could be a very enjoyable book. It can also be applied to global history and has lots of potential for class projects and discussions.

Maria said...

I liked this book, but I did not love it. I liked how Giacomo told the story as if he was chatting with the reader, and I enjoyed the little plot points that occurred throughout the story. I found that the author referred to a lot of the assumed information that kids have about Leonardo DaVinci, so, in that respect, kids may relate more to the book. But, I didn’t feel that the story was captivating and/or memorable. I think a student would quickly lose interest. It might be a good historical fiction piece for a Global book list to support that curriculum, but, overall I do not think I would recommend this to many students.

Mary said...

I have an opinion similar to the previous posts. I liked the book but it was not outstanding. At times, especially in the middle, I was bogged down. I did enjoy Giacomo's comments in-between dialogue. It was often very funny.

I could see this as a good book for students studying the time period. I also might be able to use a few excerpts in my Studio in Art class. That would be more entertaining than the strict Renaissance time line. I could also see it as an option for the sketchbook assignment. If someone chose to read it and answer questions/present in place of the regular sketchbook assignment. Occasionally students are looking for non-drawing options.

The author was successful showing Leonardo as a very complicated man. He went beyond the stereotypical artist as he was well read, explored many disciplines with mastery and applied his creativity well beyond the canvas. He was intense and determined to solve challenges no matter what it took, often with disregard to time and convention and at the expense of those he cared about the most. The character of Giacomo was a very good foil to Leonardo's character.

In the end, I wish it held me a bit more as it had a lot of potential.

rebeccakryger said...

Part of the reason this book was only okay for me was that I didn't really like the narrator. From the very first chapter, Giacomo seemed like a bit of a jerk, so that turned me off a bit as a reader. I did think the portrayal of Leonardo was interesting--the way he seemed so socially inept yet extremely intelligent. The conflict between Leonardo and the Duke was the most interesting conflict for me. Leonardo sending the Medusa instead of the mistress's portrait was an interesting way to "stick it to the man."

I'm not sure what type of reader I would recommend this to--interested in art or history--but it doesn't feel like it would satisfy a large audience (in the way that The Hunger Games could connect easily to a teen reader).

Lisa said...

I agree with Dawn that this book had a strong beginning and then just dragged on. I was hoping that Giacomo would find out who his parents were...that was very disappointing. I continued to read because I was waiting for Grey to reveal that information. I was also happy that Leonardo was not his father. His treatment of Giacomo was bothersome. I honestly though Giacomo was going to be the son of loyalty because of the medallion, cross and ring he carried with him. This would be a good book to use for Global students.

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I did not love this book either. It was entertaining but not great. I found many aspects of the book annoying. For example the fact that Giacomo did not learn who his parents were and the way Leonardo treated him. Also I found it difficult to connect with Giacomo as the main character. I think it was an interesting subject and I have never really read a book similar to this one before, but maybe that's because its not usually a genre I am drawn to. Overall I thought the book was okay, I'm not sure how students would react. It may be a good book to use in a Global or even an Art classroom.