Serafino da Ferrara

Fiction - LGBTQ
284 Pages
Reviewed on 04/17/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

Maria Victoria Beltran

Serafino da Ferrara is an intriguing novel by Paolo G. Grossi that follows the story of a young Italian named Serafino who lived in 16th-century Italy and a young American named Parker who lived in the 21st century. Serafino is apprenticed to Mastro Filargiro, one of the city's leading artists when he meets Ludovico d’Este, nephew of the powerful Lucrezia Borgia, Duchessa d’Este. The two develop a deep relationship but Serafino’s talent will take him on a dangerous journey across Italy's feuding city-states. Parker, also a talented artist, finds himself in Florence, Italy when his father becomes Consul General of the city. He gets to know Beppe at school and easily adjusts to life in Italy. Serafino and Parker are gay and their lives will intertwine when Parker uncovers a long-buried mystery in a fifteenth-century palazzo.

Paolo G. Grossi’s Serafino da Ferrara is a captivating historical novel that immerses readers in the world of Renaissance Italy and the exploration of love, identity, and self-discovery of two gay young men living in different times. As the story unravels, readers are introduced to a host of fascinating historical figures, including artists and members of the powerful ruling families of the time. Through Serafino's eyes, we see his struggles and triumphs as he navigates the complex social and political landscape of Renaissance Italy. Through Parker’s narrative, on the other hand, we can witness the courage and resilience of those who dare to love and live authentically. Grossi's literary style is evocative and immersive, and the characters are memorable and well-drawn. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a rich and rewarding read.

K.C. Finn

Serafino da Ferrara is a work of fiction in the historical drama, contemporary drama, and LGBTQIA+ subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Paolo G. Grossi. In this interesting and heartfelt drama that draws parallels across five hundred years, our two central figures will never meet but will walk a similar path of self-discovery. In 1505, Serafino is a young talent whose prowess will take him far in the art world, but he must contend with the warring city of Ferrara. Meanwhile, Parker is busy embracing a new life in Italy when his father is appointed to work there in 2008. But as Parker begins to discover the history of his new home from home, we see just how similar he and Serafino are on their paths.

Author Paolo G. Grossi has crafted a gorgeous tale of discovery, romance, art, and adventure in this emotive and deeply engrossing drama. I adore LGBTQIA+ fiction that doesn’t make sexuality or gender the only theme of the work, and I felt that the queer storytelling elements of this piece blended naturally into the historical and contemporary scenes to really enrich the journey of both young men as they stepped out into the world. Grossi gives tenderness and realism to the narrative that makes you feel as if you know these young men personally, feeling every intricate decision they must make and the experiences you know will change their lives. Overall, Serafino da Ferrara is a highly accomplished novel with much to offer fans of interpersonal drama and rich historical fiction.

Jamie Michele

Serafino da Ferrara by Paolo Grossi is a hybrid contemporary and historical LGBTQ+ coming-of-age novel that revolves around two young men, 16th-century Serafino and 21st-century Parker. The book transitions between the two young men, depicting Fino's gradual ascent from sketches in the corner of a modest lunchroom to being in the presence of Michaelangelo, the realm of the Medici, and on the “lips of princes and dukes.” Meanwhile, Parker and his family relocate from Washington, DC to Italy, and Parker's own talent begins to thrive. Parker connects with a new friend in ways he never expected, and the trajectory of his life changes. While the parallel design of the lives of Fino and Parker is slowly revealed, so too are the most intimate pieces of their private lives and the undercurrent of the exploitation of youth and abuse of power that carry through the ages.

“He has seen what no one else sees, because no one else knows.” There is something of a full-circle feel to Serafino da Ferrara by Paolo Grossi, and while it takes some time to get there, it does in the end. This is an entirely character-driven story that rests on the growth of boys into men, with some small subplots but an arc that is distinctly the transition from the innocence of childhood to the realities of adulthood. From a literary standpoint, the book is quite slow and on the unpolished side, and while Parker is described as American, he's definitely British in what he thinks and communicates. Still, in an LGBTQ coming-of-age genre that is woefully underrepresented, witnessing the sexual awakening of two teenagers that are five centuries apart is the golden egg that makes Serafino da Ferrara a worthy read. It is rare to find a blend that transcends such a span of time and both Parker and Fino are characters we desperately want to root for.

Asher Syed

Serafino da Ferrara by Paolo Grossi is a novel set in two different time periods. In 1505, a young artist named Serafino becomes an apprentice to a famed instructor, Mastro Filargiro. As Serafino's notoriety accelerates, he unintentionally and unavoidably becomes a threat to already established Renaissance artists, and when he finds love he is also exposed to heightened danger, journeying through fighting Italian cities and dynamics of power far beyond his understanding. Fast forward to Washington DC in 2008, Parker is a freshman when news arrives that his dad is the next Consul General in Florence. Parker is popular with his new Italian classmates and bonds closely with one named Beppe. Parts of Serafino's life discovered by Parker in the ancient family home are only one of the many secrets it holds and the experiences that bind the young men are profoundly similar.

Serafino da Ferrara by Paolo Grossi has a strong, hopeful LGBTQ message against a backdrop of Renaissance Italy and modern Florence. Parker and Serafino are developed characters and could probably carry their own weight in their own books, but I am grateful that Grossi intertwined their lives because it lends to the comparisons and contrasts efficiently made between Serafino's century and Parker's, which is obviously also ours. The best parts for me are when Serafino is traveling, on account of Grossi's descriptions of rural Renaissance Italy sometimes bordering on cinematic. There is one scene where Serafino, called the 'little scribbler', is bundled up and asleep in a fur pelt blanket and I could really see and imagine it, as it would have been. The prose Grossi uses can be overdone but, overall, this is a wonderfully engrossing novel and was a pleasure to read, with a very satisfying ending. Recommended.