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Secrecy Hardcover – 7 Mar 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Granta; First Edition edition (7 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847081630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847081636
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 499,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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'A novel rich as the past it conjures up, weaving a story as playful and disturbing as the strange wax sculptures that its hero gives life to.' --Sarah Dunant

'Thomson's novels have met with a remarkable uniformity of critical acclaim... Delivered via Thomson's habitual Rolls-Royce prose, Secrecy builds to a page-turning climax' -Guardian

'This is a book that scores top marks for atmosphere, for the way in which the smell, and look , of pre-18th century Florence is conveyed, for the cinematic sense of menace that lurks round every street corner, every candle-lit arras, and every formal garden. The description of the method by which Zummo works for 30 hours to take a plaster cast of the corpse, and the depiction of the final object, with its own hair, and glass eyes from Murano, is chillingly brilliant and sinister. A superb depiction of a pre-Enlightenment world, shimmering with superstitions, repression, and incomprehension, and a plot that really is masterly.' --Financial Times

'Rupert Thomson's bewitching narrative is suffused with the stuff of dreams and nightmares. It's also intensely atmospheric, and Thomson is as superb on changes of light and weather as he is on Florence's architectural gems.' -Daily Mail

'An impressive historical adventure written in an accomplished prose ... Thomson excels in suggesting a strong sense of place ... He is also determinedly inventive, succeeding in finding new ways to describe weather, nature, and the workings of the human mind ... this is a rich and intriguing work by a writer in command of his material. There is a pleasurable phrase to be found on every page.' --Literary Review

'Scene after scene trembles with breath-stopping tension on the edge of bliss or dread. No one else writes quite like this in Britain today. Newcomers to his work who open this box of secrets will hurry to snatch others from the shelf.' --Independent

'Thomson richly and compellingly imagines the life of the Sicilian wax sculptor Gaetano Zummo ... [it is] in his eye for the gothic and uncanny that Thomson excels.' -Sunday Times

'Like a luxurious art-house film, seducing you with its beautifully paced, beautifully framed images ... If this easy, elegant prose is nothing more than surface, then it is gratifying that Secrecy also has depths, even chasms ... I don t doubt there is research here, but it is Thomson s subconscious that rules the past in this book, and I bend the knee before it.' --Independent on Sunday

'Thomson transcends genre pretty effortlessly. He doesn't scrimp on the many satisfactions of a historical novel and he provides an unstintingly gripping thriller plot into the bargain. But what lifts Secrecy to a more rarefied level altogether is the visionary imagination that overlays the scrupulously worked structures those genres demand. It informs the brilliance of Thomson's characterisation, from the morbid monomania of a tormented Cosimo, to the brutish, coiled savagery of the Dominican enforcer Stufa, to the ghostly sadness of a neglected child. Along with a particular poetic gift for laying the exquisite alongside the visceral, it enables him to evoke Florence's peculiarly sinister magic to perfection, and to thread together the real, the historical and the purely imagined with such loving attention that I defy readers to see the join. Indeed, the join becomes irrelevant.' --Guardian

'Thomson's writing is pitch-perfect here. His prose is as clear and limpid as water, his ear finely attuned to the timbre of the period though mercifully free from archaisms, his characters drawn with subtlety and wit. The details are pin-sharp, but sparing enough not to weigh down the story. Instead, there is a mesmerising quality to the unfolding of the narratives and a sense of ellipsis that keeps it hovering on the t --Hampshire Society

Another spellbinder in prose, Rupert Thomson with Secrecy proved that he can evoke the past with all the eerie and sinister panache of his contemporary fiction. --'Books of the Year' chosen by Boyd Tonkin, Independent

With Secrecy [Rupert Thomson] has hit the spot. --Hampshire Society

About the Author

Rupert Thomson is the author of eight highly acclaimed novels: Dreams of Leaving, The Five Gates of Hell, Air & Fire, The Insult, Soft, The Book of Revelation, Divided Kingdom and most recently, Death of a Murderer, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award and by World Book Day for the Book to Talk About 2008. His memoir, This Party's Got to Stop, also published by Granta, won him the Writers' Guild Non-Fiction Award. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was seventeen when I first read a Rupert Thomson book. I'd just failed my driving test and was mooching around Smith's looking for something to take the edge off. In the Contemporary Fiction aisle (whatever happened to that?) I saw a book with a can of Tango on the front, and `SOFT' in fuzzy orange capitals. I skipped to the back: a bloke stalled his car. That'll do, I thought.

Since then I've read everything Thomson's written. No-one does unusual like this man, and his eight very different novels (and one autobiography, best read after The Five Gates of Hell for maximum impact) draw you into a reality underneath what your eyes see. I've enjoyed his books dozens of times but sometimes agree with the critics: his plots can meander. Not Secrecy. Thomson's thought this one through, and has pieced together a brilliantly taut story set in murky post-Renaissance Italy.

If historical fiction isn't your thing then Secrecy is the book to convert you. We follow Zummo, a real-life wax sculptor who fetches up in Florence on a commission from the Grand Duke. These are dark times: people get lashed for flirting; famine's ravaged the country, and psychotic monks stalk the streets dispensing justice like Judge Dredd with bibles. The cryptic, exotic alleyways are a maze for our hero, who's forever looking over his shoulder, waiting for his past to catch up with him, falling in love, stumbling into a royal conspiracy...

In the three years since This Party's Got To Stop it's easy to see what Thomson's been up to: research. Secrecy's dazzling accounts of casting wax could get you an apprenticeship at Madam Tussauds, and Thomson's calling card - vivid descriptions of the world around us - fly off of every page.
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By SueKich TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an elegantly written tale of secrecy, lies and scandal. Set in late 17th century Florence, between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, it is a dark period of the city's history and the Office of Public Decency is not short of spies to ensure that anyone caught having fun is made to suffer most hideously.

Zummo, the creator of exquisite but gruesome plague scenes sculpted in wax, is unquestionably an artist for his times. "Not without foundation was it sometimes said of me that I had studied anatomy in more detail than was strictly necessary for a sculptor."

Summoned to Florence by the Grand Duke, he is commissioned to make a very special sculpture - it must be kept a secret between the two of them. Within his sculpture, Zummo plans to hide some secrets of his own but by this time he has made the mistake of falling in love...

The character of Zummo is based on Baroque sculptor of curiosities, Gaetano Zumbo, and the author has him quote another artist of the Baroque period, Salvator Rosa: "Either remain silent, or speak better than silence." Rupert Thomson does just that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Secrecy is more of an experience than a simply a compulsive read. Thomson so consummately inhabits his characters, particularly that of his wax sculptor Zummo, but also his darker, more sinister creations, that one could almost compare him to a method actor in the thoroughness of his psychological quest for authenticity. The reader is transported to a little known world of shadows where all is not as it seems, and despite the 'otherness' of Zummo's oeuvre, depicting in wax contorted figures in extremis suffering from plague, and suspended between life and death, we nonetheless easily identify with his fears, love where he loves, and dream his dreams (and his nightmares). In a talk which Thomson gave at the recent Oxford Literary Festival the author confessed to feeling some compassion for all his characters, and this fleshes out even the more fleeting and minor players so that we feel intimately connected.

His skill lies in drawing us into this landscape of Florence in the late 17th century with the brutality and corruption so tangible we can smell and feel it, and yet ensuring we don't want to be wrenched out of it. It is like being under a spell, or immersed in a film we can't forget. The themes of 'secrecy' are so intricately threaded through the story that we uncover them in layers, like rummaging through a chest of treasures to discover now jewels, now clods of earth.

The book is crafted with the detailed and painstaking skill of a true artist, yet Thomson's words are light on the page, his metaphors memorable and astonishing, and the story fast paced. You will reach the conclusion of this part love story, part historical novel, part puzzle and want to begin again - such will be the sense of loss in finishing it.
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By Copernicus VINE VOICE on 13 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Secrecy,"is a an intriguing and spellbinding novel which captures your attention from the start and brings you into the world of Zummo,( based on Gaetano Zumbo a Sicilian wax artist.) a fifteenth century wax sculptor in the brilliant setting of seventeenth century Florence.

The tale is rich in detail, beautifully painted, expertly structured and plotted to produce an entirely satisfying story, which makes you think long after you have finished the book.

Told in the first person, we see life in Florence and you can taste the food, smell the pleasant , not so pleasant and experience the machinations of life in the Ducal court, who commissions a 'special work ' from the resourceful Zummo. He falls in love with the beautiful apothecary's daughter, Faustina, who, like Zummo, has secrets of her own and this act in itself brings danger.

Multi-layered, with surprises at every turn, Rupert Thompson has written not just an historical thriller but a tapestry of detail set against an earthy background of Italian court politics. From the sinister and brutal Stufa to the wily Bassetti , the book kept me enthralled throughout.

This is a story to savour and could well be a classic.
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