The Etruscan Net

Having enjoyed Close Quarters, I ordered a few more Michael Gilbert novels.   It seems for the most part you’re stuck finding old second-hand copies.  British Library Crime Classics has apparently put a couple out, but not in the States yet.  They always seem to take longer here.  At any rate, this one drew me because the main character is running an art book store in Florence and the story involves possible Etruscan forgeries and/or archaeological theft.   That seemed pretty much up my alley so I turned to it next, even though it’s his 14th novel or so.   Gilbert still writes well, but that description of the story is a bit misleading.   Our bookseller is swiftly tossed in prison for a hit-and-run he presumably didn’t commit.   Owing to the Italian political situation at the time (shortly after the bad flooding in 1966) it’s much easier just to find the man guilty.   But his friends rally ’round and find a good lawyer and do some investigating themselves trying to get the bookseller off.   It’s a well-written story, but it just didn’t grab me.   A couple of thugs come to town.  We follow mainly an English Etruscan Art expert as he looks into the archaeological digging of a wealthy art dealer who likes to host Etruscan themed dinner parties.   Where’s Etrusc, I wondered?   Of course I know it wasn’t called Etrusc (or presumed it wasn’t, but realized I don’t know bupkis about the Etruscans.)  Etruria, for those who don’t know either.  They flourished in central Italy from the 8th to the 3rd centuries BCE and they made some beautiful stuff.


So, it’s hard to talk about the book too much because I really didn’t get into it, although I did finish it.   It’s just not my kind of story.   Although there’s a plucky young woman, the erudite Etruscan expert, a divine young man who believes he has super powers and as far as math goes, actually does, and his guardian the art dealer who would rather have been an ancient Etruscan…  it should all add up to an interesting story and yet somehow it was a bit of a chore to read it.   I’ll probably read the others that I bought, but it’s put a damper on my enthusiasm for Michael Gilbert.

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

Originally published in 1974, The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall is a study of the whole Medici family from when they first rose to prominence in the 14th century to the end of the line in the 18th.   Obviously, that covers a lot of territory so this is very much an overview, discussing each prominent member for a short while and moving on.   If you already know about the Medici or Florentine history, this is not the book for you.  However, if you’re curious about this famous Italian family and their extraordinary influence on the art world and their history, it’s great.   Interesting, telling the most prominent stories, but never getting bogged down, I doubt there’s a better quick survey out there.   It also lists all the pictures, statues, and buildings that still existed in 1974 (and presumably most of them still do) and where they’re located.  Handy if you’re going to Florence and want to see as many Medici associated pieces of art and architecture as you can.

I’ve not much to say beyond this.   It’s a quick read and some people may find that it is too quick.   I don’t feel like I learned anything about Leonardo da Vinci, for example, but there’s considerably more on Michelangelo.  There are plenty of books out there to fill in the details if you find yourself fascinated by one or more of them.   I found it interesting how different their personalities and characters were.


housemedici Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.   My computer and I were separated and I haven’t learnt how to do this on an ipad.  But we are reunited, so I should be able to catch up on my embarrassingly short backlog of read books.   And knuckle down and read some more.   I’ve been doing more than their fair share of other things.