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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Serafino da Ferrara by Paolo Grossi is an interesting take on the coming-of-age of two young gay men, some 500 years apart. In the early 16th century, a brilliant and incredibly talented young artist, Serafino, is tutored by one of the masters, Mastro Filargiro. His talent will not go unrecognized for long, but Serafino has a secret; he is attracted to other boys, not girls. He does find love, but with another boy well above his station; however, his blazing talent will see him plucked from obscurity to work alongside one of the great Renaissance masters, Michelangelo himself. His ability and fame will cause anger and jealousy amongst the other Renaissance masters, and he must constantly be on his guard against attack or discovery of his secret passions. In Washington DC, Parker, a talented young painter, is just completing his first year of high school, and he also realizes he is attracted to other boys, not girls. When Parker’s father is appointed consul general to the US Consulate in Florence, Italy, Parker is thrilled to be living in the spiritual home of the Renaissance. Immediately making a close friend in school, Parker can explore his love of art and his secret love of other boys. A chance discovery at their rented home provided by the consulate begins to bring these two young men’s parallel journeys together.
Serafino da Ferrara is different from my usual type of reading, but I found it profoundly satisfying with a fascinating premise. The link between these two talented young men was tenuous at first. However, as Paolo Grossi slowly unveiled their journeys, their parallel paths deviated and began to head toward each other. Both Serafino and Parker are beautifully drawn characters who show the perils of being young and gay both in the 16th and the 21st century. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of the existing Renaissance masters, whether containing an element of truth or not. Their jealousy, envy, and even anger at this new upstart not only taking their potential commissions from them but being better than them certainly aroused some powerful emotions. I appreciated the excellent relationship between Parker and Beppe, who developed an enduring love throughout this story. The love scenes are beautifully and tastefully written, with the border between exciting eroticism and crudity never crossed or approached by Grossi. The architectural descriptions and style of the narrative genuinely allow you to fully immerse yourself in both the marvel of 16th-century Florence and the beauty and wonder of historic 21st-century Florence. This is a beautiful story and one I enjoyed immensely. I can highly recommend it.