review: the agony and the ecstasy

24 June 2012

book info:
ages: 15 and up
grades: 9 and up
on sale: now
copy from: Barnes and Noble (my brother)
pages: 760 (small pages and print)

title: The Agony and the Ecstasy
author: Irving Stone

From the tumult of life, his brilliant work made a grasp for heaven unmatched in half a millennium. Now, in a special ediction celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's David, Irving Stone's towering triumph: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Renaissance was a turbulent time of plotting princes, warring popes, the all-powerful de' Medici family, the fanatical monk Savonarola... and the brilliant young artist Michelangelo Buonarroti.

This is the assigned summer reading book for AP European History. I think it's prepared me for the immense amount of reading the class will include, but also the delights of learning of history. 
 Irving has created this...biography, that's both fictionalised and factual in this seamless story. I had read the start of this previous summer (or the summer before that) when I found it in my brother's room and was curious. When I found out I'd be required to read this, I was thrilled. And I had every right to be.

 One would think with a fat book like this, with small print and incredibly small spacing, that it'd be a  bore to read. I was enthralled, however. Michaelangelo comes to life, and is a real person, not a one-dimensional figure one reads about in history books. His passion for art is reflected with absolutely beautiful, and equally passionate, writing. I actually felt the need to have the inside of my nose caked with marble dust, and I actually felt Michaelangelo's craving of sculpture. His character (or person, being a biographical text) has so much passion, it's palpable!

"A sculptor could not create movement without perceiving what caused the propulsion; could not portray tension, conflict, drama, strain, force unless he saw every fibre and substance at work within the body that was shaping the power and drive; unless he knew what a movement in the front did to the corresponding muscles behind; until he grasped the whole of the human body itself" (Stone, 2012)

Stone creates incredibly detailed visual images in the mind, and in that way, I was better able to comprehend the whole of the story.

 The actual story takes one from Michaelangelo at nearly six years old, until his death many decades later. It writes out very much like a biography, but has the dialogue like fiction. I can honestly say I've never read anything like it. It's the ultimate historical fiction novel, with seemingly more truth than others. Michaelangelo's famed stubbornness, his rivalry with Leonardo da Vinci, his struggles as an artist...all come to life. And what a way to create relationships, as well. Everything makes sense.

 Some negative things were the massive base of characters. There were so many names and Cardinals and locations to keep in mind: it can be a bit overwhelming, but if you can truly keep track of those sorts of things, than it's pretty enriching.

 Of course, in my driving thirst to read Shakespeare, I had to trudge through the last thirty pages, in which the end result was me with pained eyes and a fried brain. One can understand why I would particularly give it five trees. And there were some parts that were just...boring. They were vital for the story to flow smoothly, and vital for everything to make sense. All things written are equally important: but I guess the content itself sometimes got boring.

My conclusion is that this book deserves four trees. Losing a tree because of the experience state above, and the boring but significant details.

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