Rupert Thomson

Published: 2 January 2014
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781847084828


Zummo - a 17th-century prodigy and creator of figures so realistic they look as though they might draw breath - has spent his life fleeing his past. Summoned to the Medici court by the Grand Duke, a man of holy devotions and hidden longings, Zummo finds himself in a city riddled with hypocrisy and contradictions, where adulterers are publicly flogged, while within the palace walls members of the court indulge their nefarious pleasures. Commissioned by the Grand Duke to sculpt a life-size Venus from wax, Zummo scours the streets for inspiration. But 1690s Florence is a place of unforseen dangers and secrets still more devastating than his own, and when a young woman's body is found on the banks of the Arno, Zummo suspects that the source of vice has its bed in the Medici court. As he proceeds with his creation, he begins to wonder whether this perfect woman will be his salvation or his downfall.

Set in a Florence blighted by corruption and austerity, Secrecy is a tour de force of whispered pleasures and startling revelations. It is a scintillating, breathtaking read from a novelist at the height of his powers.

About the author

Image of Rupert Thomson

Rupert Thomson is the author of eight highly acclaimed novels, Dreams of Leaving, The Five Gates of Hell, Air and Fire, The Insult (one of David Bowie's 100 Favourite Reads), Soft, The Book of Revelation, Divided Kingdom and Death of a Murderer, which was shortlisted for the 2008 Costa Novel Award. His memoir This Party's Got to Stop was published by Granta Books in 2009. His latest novel is Secrecy published by Granta Books in 2013. More about the author


‘[Filled] with beautifully mannered, patterned description... An exquisitely written historical mystery’ Stephen Abel



‘[Rupert Thomson] has hit the spot’

‘[This] bewitching narrative is suffused with the stuff of dreams and nightmares. It's intensely atmospheric, and Thomson is as superb on changes of light and weather as he is on Florence's architectural gems’ Stephanie Cross

Secrecy's portrait of Florence is managed by way of glints and touches rather than any sort of panorama... The story provides a liquid surface on which Thomson can float the exquisite toy boats of his language... Intensely inventive’ Adam Mars-Jones

‘A fast-moving novel’ Mary Feely

‘A fine novel... A historical romp [and] sophisticated literary exploration of sexual desire and the limitations of creativity’ David Evans

‘A historical romp [and] a sophisticated literary exploration of sexual desire and the limitations of creativity... A fine novel’ David Evans

‘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

‘A powerfully dark, bittersweet story... beautifully written’ Rosemary Goring

‘A sinister tale which vividly brings to life a terrifying pre-Enlightenment world... Thomson's finest novel yet’

‘A well written historical novel, alive with the sights and sounds of seventeenth century Italy and the rotten smell of corruption’

‘An impressive historical adventure written in accomplished prose... A rich and intriguing work by a writer in command of his material. There is a pleasurable phrase to be found on every page’ Jonathan Barnes

‘Exquisitely written’ Alice Coke

‘In Secrecy all [Thomson's] considerable gifts - for binding an audience tight into his narrative, for rich characterisation, for originality of vision, for delicately intuiting a lost world as well as amply researching it - are exercised in parallel... [He has] a particular poetic gift for laying the exquisite alongside the visceral, [and evokes] Florence's peculiarly sinister magic to perfection’ Christobel Kent

‘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’ Jonathan Gibb

‘Part thriller, part historical novel, and wholly satisfying’ Isabel Berwick

‘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’ Boyd Tonkin

‘The novel is very atmospheric and brilliantly evokes the intrigue, mystery and danger of a city beset by power struggles and conspiracies... Superb’

‘This book scores top marks... A superb depiction of a pre-Enlightenment world, shimmering with superstitions, repression, and incomprehension, and a plot that really is masterly... Chillingly brilliant and sinister’ A.N. Wilson

‘This exquisitely written, macabre historical novel perfectly recreates the sinister atmosphere of seventeenth century Medici Florence where nothing is what it seems’ Alice Coke

‘Thomson has drawn a colourful picture of the 1600s’

‘Thomson writes in glittering prose... A very fine novel, which invites rereading’ Allan Massie

‘Thomson... evokes the past with all the eerie and sinister panache of his contemporary fiction... [A] spellbinder in prose’ Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year

‘Thomson's ability to write such accomplished books in different genres is a testament to his skill as an author... Secrecy is a vivid piece of historical fiction [and] an enjoyable read’

‘Thomson's book are always distinctive and surprising’

‘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’ Nicholas Wroe

‘Thomson's prose is full of exquisite sensual detail that brings the dark underbelly of post-Renaissance Florence to life’ Simon Humphreys

‘Thomson's writing is pitch-perfect. His prose is as clear and limpid as water... It is surely his finest novel to date: exquisitely crafted, with the power to possess and unsettle the reader in equal measure... Mesmerising’ Stephanie Merritt

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