Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Secrecy” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  740 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
It is Florence, 1691. The Renaissance is long gone, and the city is a dark, repressive place, where everything is forbidden and anything is possible. The Enlightenment may be just around the corner, but knowledge is still the property of the few, and they guard it fiercely. Art, sex and power - these, as always, are the obsessions.

Facing serious criminal charges, Gaetano Z
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 7th 2013 by Granta (first published January 1st 2013)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Secrecy, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Secrecy

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 22, 2014 Figgy marked it as to-read
I look at this cover and go:

Why can't we have gifs as names of shelves?
Forced to flee his native Sicily, Gaetano Zummo journeys first to Naples, then to Palermo before being summoned to Florence at the request of Cosimo III de Medici himself. The Grand Duke of Tuscany is interested in Zummo's skill as a sculptor in wax, and offers him a special commission in reward for a generous stipend. However, Florence in the late 17th century is not an ideal place for a wax sculptor with a particular interest in the macabre; people vanish in its dark, suffocating alleys, and ...more

BBC BLURB: "Some see you as a master craftsman. Others say you're a sorcerer. You're mysterious, obsessive. Controversial."

Zummo - a 17th-century sculptor - makes things out of wax, figures so lifelike they look as if they might move and breathe. He has journeyed throughout Italy over the years in an attempt to flee his past. Now, in 1691, he has been summoned to the Medici court by the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He arrives in Florence, a city in which "everything was forbidden [and] anything wa
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Aug 24, 2013 Jacki (Julia Flyte) rated it liked it
I enjoyed and disliked this book in almost equal parts. On the one hand, the language is beautiful, the characters are interesting and the setting (17th century Florence) seems meticulously researched. On the other hand, it has a creepiness about it which I found off-putting to read, the prologue gives away twists that would be better held until the book's ending and somehow I didn't get any sense of place. I learned a lot about Florence at that time, but I never felt like I was there.

The story
Jul 11, 2013 Carla rated it really liked it
This isn't Thomson's first foray into historical fiction (see Air & Fire) but it was definitely a departure from his last novel, Death of a Murderer. As usual, Thomson's ability to paint a vivid picture of the novel's setting is in full force. Thomson's fascination with the macabre and the darker side of human psyche is once again front and center in this beautifully rendered mystery/romance. His characters always have a bit of the unexpected to them, and as you get deeper into the novel the ...more
Gabi Coatsworth
Wonderful historical thriller set in 17th century Florence. The novel drew me in by its fantastic sense of place and time, and then I got engrossed by the plot and the characters. A very satisfying read. great for book clubs, since there are a number of moral questions to discuss.
Nov 09, 2013 Issicratea rated it really liked it
This is a very striking book, one of the best novels I've read for quite a while. The last quarter or so didn't quite work so well for me, or I'd have given it five stars. The writing is nothing less than brilliant: more impressive than Mantel's in Wolf Hall for my taste, as it's much more concise and compressed. The evocation of place and time is amazingly vivid and visceral.

I was attracted to this book by its setting, in Florence—not the familiar world of Renaissance Florence, but the decadent
Chloe Thurlow
Aug 31, 2013 Chloe Thurlow rated it it was ok
I so much wanted to like this book. From the sumptuous cover with gold titling and a pregnant woman half hidden by drapes of crimson, you are prepared for a feast by the wonderful designers at Granta. The wrappings far outweigh the contents.

Let me say, Rupert Thomson is a good writer. But good writing cannot disguise a messy meandering plot with characters who are unengaging, glibly described and unmemorable. There are lines in this book that I highlighted with a yellow marker pen - but so, too,
Ilija Ilić
Apr 27, 2016 Ilija Ilić rated it really liked it
Not bad, definitely original and interesting, maybe a little slow on some parts, but still.. Amazing story..
Amra Isović
Dragi moji evo od sinoć pokušavam da shvatim kako je ovaj stil pisanja uspio pobrati toliko nagrada i da se poredi sa nekim imenima iz vrha književnog svijeta.Ma dobro rekla sam odavno da se o ukusima neda raspravljati, ali ova knjiga meni nije ispunila očekivanja. Stil pisanja mi je u više navrata bio usiljen, kao da je pisao knjigu pod čizmom izdavača ili ti što sl..Glavni lik previše zaposjednut prošlošću, i problematika njegovog življenja svedena na dvije do tri ključne stvari, koje i nisu ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Janet rated it really liked it
A stunning, powerful and bloodcurdling book. It is set in Florence, at the end of the seventeenth century, a time at which the de Medici's still flourished. Florence was in the grip of the Dominican inquisition. In order to survive in this dark period you would have to be careful to make no enemies within higher circles. Jesuits and 'contaminated' people were bound to end their lives being tortured in jail, without any form of justice.

In this lugubrious setting a Sicilian wax artist tries his l
This is an ARC that I received from the publisher, Other Press from a Facebook giveaway. It came wrapped in brown paper and sealed with wax which was very cool. This book really was a 3 1/2 star read. This is the story of Zummo, an Italian was sculptor who has found his way to Florence in the early 1700s. He is working for the Grand Duke who enjoys his work and then commissions a very special piece. This is a time of great repression in Italy, where people are spied on and punished for any ...more
Aug 14, 2014 Jamie rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book. And they not only fell but plummeted.

I read this on a three strike basis and then skimmed the rest to get to the end.

**Some SPOILERS** But does not give away any main plot points**

Strike One: The love interest, Faustina, is completely banal though she is made out to be dark and mysterious. Zummo compliments her as often as he can. He says, "They're beautiful, your fingers." Her response is, "Are they?" Not even a full page later, Zummo tells Faustina that she's
Aug 18, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
17/08 - I'm enjoying this but at the same time having a few problems with the fact that the situation in Florence isn't properly explained for someone who doesn't already know the history. I was a big fan of the tv series The Borgias, but that is about the extent of my knowledge of Italy prior to the twentieth century. In fact, I've just gained a much better understanding from reading another reviewer's explanation of the atmosphere in Florence at that time. I just wish there was some more backg ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Karina rated it really liked it
A fugitive with dark rumours in his past, Gaetano Zummo arrives in Florence in 1691 following an invitation from the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Renowned for his sculptures in wax, especially of macabre subjects, he is placed in danger when the Duke gives him a secret commission – to create a beautiful female nude. For Florence is a repressive society dominated by the austere Dominican order, where beheading, torture or brutal punishment is due to anyone found guilty of debauchery. It is also a ...more
i totally flipped for rupert thomson book about sci fi uk divided into 4 different colors Divided Kingdom so was maybe overexcited about this historical novel of 1699 florence and art, but while very well done, and lots of cool details, a nice illicit love interest, very interesting art talk, and evil priest slash sadist-murderer, it seemed hard to get into. a bit slow on all facets, the characters, the plot, the history. maybe really, and i'm not enamored with the whole new tread of making nove ...more
In my progress update I called it 'a fever dream of a book', and that opinion hasn't changed. In fact, that is about the only think I can say with certainty about the novel.
It reads like a fantasy, like wish fulfillment, like a dream that is dark, but not yet a nightmare, like an unsettling sight that doesn't affect you but for the hour after seeing it during which you can't stop thinking about it. All in all, I'm not even sure I enjoyed it.
Sep 19, 2014 Karina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
Reading this novel set in Florence whilst visiting the city is kind of eerie....maybe today it's not so dark and dangerous but there is still an undercurrent. The author is one of the best around and here he is in his element stringing together a tale of intrigue with secrets at its heart. Okay I did guess two of those secrets fairly easily but it's still a brilliant evocation of time and place that had me totally hooked.
Maybe it helps if you're already here though.
I couldn't read this book fast enough! I love reading about Italy, and my favorite city in Italy is Florence. I'm also a big fan of Historical Fiction so there was no doubt in my mind that I would like this book. I cared for the characters and I loved the way the author slowly told us the back story of Zummo and Faustina. I was sad when I finished this book because I grew to care for the characters and did not want to let them go! I highly recommend this book.
May 31, 2013 Zoe rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2013
Very interesting. I learned something new by reading it.

Is beautifully written.

The link below is Author’s take on what inspired him to write this novel. It gives you something more to have better understanding of the story.

my link text

Enjoy !
Dec 22, 2014 Bev rated it it was ok
Historical fiction, set in the times of Cosimo de Medici, told through the eyes and experiences of Zummo, a sculptor in wax. I never was swept up in the story and always felt that I was being "told" about everything. The era is fascinating; this book, not so much.
Charlie Newfell
Dec 29, 2014 Charlie Newfell rated it really liked it
Richly detailed account of love and secrets during the Renaissance. The background, and time-frame description was even of more interest than the "secrets" on which the novel is based. Overall recommended.
Dec 09, 2016 Carolyn rated it did not like it
I just could not get into the characters. The writing style wasn't for me, either.
Matthew Cable
Oct 15, 2016 Matthew Cable rated it liked it
I think I enjoyed it? It was mostly read while flying between hemispheres on a journey on tentative love, so who really knows. I think I'd read it again if I could remember who I leant it to...
Sam Davison
Oct 13, 2016 Sam Davison rated it liked it
I love Rupert Thomson's writing and this is a beautiful book as always. He brings 17th century Florence alive and the characters are interesting. The ending is a little disappointing and jaded.
Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize
Given the interviews Rupert Thompson has given recently to promote Secrecy, he well knows he’s something of an under-celebrated novelist, a treat for the cognoscenti yet largely unknown beyond his fan base. Despite producing over a twenty-five year period a brace of perfectly formed and unsettling novels, like Dreams of Leaving, The Insult and The Book of Revelation, Thompson has never won a major prize. Secrecy, a stylish, discomforting foray into historical fiction, should change this.

Secrecy is set in 17th century Florence and tells the story of Gaetano Zumbo, a sculptor famous for creating gruesome wax models depicting the human body in various stages of decay. Zumbo (or Zummo, as he is usually referred to in the novel) arrives in Florence in 1691, having fled from his home in Sicily for reasons which are revealed later in the book. The Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de' Medici, is an admirer of Zummo's work and commissions a very special sculpture from him – one which m ...more
Oct 20, 2013 Tripfiction rated it liked it
We were intrigued from the moment we saw the cover of this book, set in FLORENCE, as it has a voluptuous and stunning cover, a beautifully composed pregnant woman, veiled in dark crimson damask. The book's spine is gold. Very promising and tasteful! The story follows Zummo, the creator of wax figurines working on a commision from The Grand Duke in late 17th Century Florence. His project is to create a life-size figure of a woman made out of wax. Along the way, and as the story progresses, Zummo ...more
The Idle Woman
Set in the dying days of the 17th century, this novel introduces us to Florence in the days of a less familiar section of the Medici family: Grand Duke Cosimo, his effeminate heir Ferdinando and his younger son, the obese Gian Gastone. Weakened by debauchery and inbreeding, this is a family already rendered half-grotesque; and Cosimo, like many of his peers, is fascinated by the morbid, the diseased and the deformed. When the wax sculptor and anatomist Gaetano Zumbo arrives in Florence, Cosimo ...more
Feb 05, 2015 Sheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5 stars) Set during the days of Cosimo III, Secrecy is a fictional account of the Sicilian wax sculptor Gaetano Zummo. Zummo left Sicily at 20 under suspicious circumstances and has always felt he was on the run, always looking over his shoulder. He ends up in Florence and gains the Patronage of the Grand Duke, Cosimo who wants him to sculpt him a woman of wax.

Thomson does an excellent job a detailing and describing 17th Century Florence - where hypocrites of the state and church cruelly pun
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Tides of War
  • The Last Banquet
  • The Girl King
  • The Marlowe Papers
  • The Ground Is Burning
  • Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica
  • The Dark
  • The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
  • Muse
  • The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms: How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century But Didn't Mean To
  • The North (And Almost Everything In It)
  • The Last Days of Detroit: The Life and Death of an American Giant
  • Master and God
  • Necrópolis
  • Husk
  • Shieldwall (Conquest Trilogy, #1)
  • Fram
  • Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Perhaps there comes a time in your life when you lose the ability to command attention, when the world starts to ignore you because it no longer believes you can have much of an effect on it. With” 0 likes
More quotes…