15 April 2011

His Last Duchess (Gabrielle Kimm)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa, and on www.kalahari.net.

This is a debut novel. By a teacher. A teacher of drama, among other things. Which is probably why I couldn’t help thinking, throughout, what a beautiful movie it’d make. Think The Tudors meets Love in the Time of Cholera meets Under the Tuscan Sun. Delicious. 

Only problem? It’s more than a little simple*.

Having said that, perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

If you like historical fiction, or need a nice, pretty, easy, feel-goody, ever-so-slightly sinister novel masquerading as a love story, His Last Duchess is for you. I predict that the bookclub bobbas will love it. (Wonder what that says about me?)


The sixteen-year-old gem of the de Medici family, Lucrezia, is wed to a handsome, wealthy Duke (aren’t they always?) and packed off to live with him in his lush duchy, Ferrara. She tries to love him, and to make a happy life in her new home, but the man is – quite simply – deeply disturbed.

And, as her married life progresses, poor Crezzi becomes ever more isolated, seeking companionship from household servants, visiting artists and her loyal cousin, Giovanni. You can imagine how delighted her evil husband is.

In short order, Crezzi finds love elsewhere. With Jacomo, who has been commissioned to paint a magnificent fresco on the castello’s walls. And her husband, rendered desperate by the fact that he is physically unable to consummate their marriage and produce an heir, and may lose his precious title to the Vatican as a result, becomes a very dangerous foe.

* By ‘simple’, I wish to imply little more than lots of convenient plot twists, characters who do exactly what you want them to, and smooth segues. I prefer more elaborate story planning but, having said that, I’d read a sequel.