Intrigue and Humor of a Fool in Medieval Florence: A Thing Done by Tinney Sue Heath

I was so pleased to read Tinney Sue Heath’s medieval tale, A Thing Done! From the start I was enthusiastic about her 13th century story told by a jester’s point of view (a ‘fool’ as he was referred). Always the entertaining part of most shows and stories, these actors actually garner little actual “showtime,” so I was delighted to read her original story (based on historical families) that weaved her protagonist, a fool named Corrado, into the social class and family intrigue and power struggle that ruled the streets of 1216 Florence.

9781611792454-AThingDone-lrg200x300I wondered before reading A Thing Done what type of historical reader might enjoy this tale.  I realized quickly that it would be the true lovers of historical detail and realistic old-world machinations.  While spinning her unique tale, Tinney also focused on the social structure of medieval Florence and made the reader very aware of class distinctions and family influences. This book is not for those swept away by the gowns and gold of court and noble families, but those who saw their corrupt and misuse of each other, their feuding and scheming ways, and their extravagant lifestyles and desire for power.

From the start, while performing at a feast of families,  Corrado (“fool”) is ordered to pull a prank. This prank starts a snowballing avalanche that Corrado wonders if he will ever be able to get out alive from, as he is used and ordered around by several noble families who are vying for position in this pre-Medici Florence (of course for coins, but still, he feels as a lowly entertainer he can’t say no-and then eventually because one side might tell the other about him). Her use of the fool lets us into his world, the world of peasants and commoners, as well as the homes, dinner parties, and secret kitchen talks of the men, and scheming women, on higher social ground who seem repeatedly out for blood from each other.  We see the simple living conditions and meals of the poor as well as the wasteful feasts and endeavors of high society.

Corrado quite humorously keeps being that person who is accidentally in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he is ultimately embroiled further and his stress level becomes higher. Already not a person who wants to interact with nobility, he struggles with these missions. He doesn’t like to be in anyone else’s business, even the business of his friends or his troop. He wants to keep to himself.  He is happy just to perform.  Ah, if he didn’t need the coins and then if he wasn’t so afraid of losing his life…..but eventually even these nobles might need to be stood up to and readers will enjoy Corrado’s emotional journey to this discovery as he often times brings humor to the page. I loved his sarcasm and enjoyed his observations which surrounded Tinney’s accurate historical detail.

I’ve always adored learning about the common people’s homes, meals, and artistic and entertaining pursuits. Medieval faires are fun as they encompass that in our modern world and Tinney’s book gave me some of that flair as we are entrenched in a performer’s lifestyle.

Tinney’s cast of characters, protagonist Corrado, his friend Neri, and Neri’s girlfriend Ghisola were vibrant, whole, and completely well-developed in a way in which I felt I’d come to know them and didn’t want to leave them or see them go. Once you get past the first chapter of this novel, you’ll be invested and not want to put it down. Corrado keeps you turning pages heading into his next endeavor all the while holding your breath that he’ll accomplish what he needs to do and make the decisions he feels are best.

Overall, Tinney’s A Thing Done is so well-detailed without being overly so, historically accurate and yet imaginatively inventive, socially thought-provoking, thrilling, and humorous! It’s a well-done novel that deserves accolades as well as readers who will appreciate its delightfully fun adventure and endearing characters.  Corrado may play a “fool,” but he shows he truly is no fool himself about the true meaning of life. The end of the novel was very touching.

A Thing Done, Synopsis~

9781611792454-AThingDone-lrg200x300Florence, 1216: The noble families of Florence hold great power, but they do not share it easily. Tensions simmer just below the surface. When Corrado the Jester’s prank-for-hire goes wrong, a brawl erupts between two rival factions. Florence reels on the brink of civil war. One side makes the traditional offer of a marriage to restore peace, but that fragile peace crumbles under the pressure of a woman’s interference, an unforgivable insult, and an outraged cry for revenge.

Corrado is pressed into unwilling service as messenger by both sides. Sworn to secrecy, he watches in horror as the headstrong knight Buondelmonte violates every code of honor to possess the woman he wants, while another woman, rejected and enraged, schemes to destroy him.

Corrado already knows too much for his own safety. Will Buondelmonte’s reckless act set off a full-scale vendetta? And if it does, will even the Jester’s famous wit and ingenuity be enough to keep himself alive and protect those dear to him?

This is Corrado’s story, but it is also the story of three fiercely determined women in a society that allows them little initiative: Selvaggia, the spurned bride; Gualdrada, the noblewoman who both tempts Buondelmonte and goads him; and Ghisola, Corrado’s great-hearted friend. From behind the scenes they will do what they must to achieve their goals—to avenge, to prevail, to survive.

Published by Fireship Press. Available in e-book or paperback format from Amazon, USA, Amazon, UK, or Barnes and Noble. Also available in paperback from WHSmith, UK, or may be ordered through local bookstores. Coming soon from other vendors.

If you would like to know more, here are some excerpts. Excerpt 1. Excerpt 2. Excerpt 3. Excerpt 4. Also, take a look at the first three chapters on Amazon USA.

Author Tinney Sue Heath, Biography (in her words)~

authorpicHeath-198x300I’ve loved music and history all of my life. I began studying the flute at age nine, and started college at the New England Conservatory in Boston with the intention of becoming a professional flutist. However, after a sudden lurch in a different direction, I somehow ended up with a journalism degree from Antioch College. I’ve worked as a staff reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education and provided editorial assistance for two University of Wisconsin-based editors of professional journals.

I never really outgrew a childhood tendency to inhabit stories. I spent a decade deeply involved in medieval reenactment with the Society for Creative Anachronism. During that time I discovered the pleasures of playing late medieval and early Renaissance music on a variety of early wind instruments: recorders, crumhorns, and shawms.

I’ve published some short fiction through Callihoo Publishing and in Fickle Muses, and now my first novel, A Thing Done, from Fireship Press. I’m a member of the Historical Novel Society. I blog on topics related to historical fiction, and especially on the research that supports it, at http://historicalfictionresearch.blogspot.com, where you will find much detail on different aspects of life in medieval Florence, ranging from music to politics (as well as a certain amount of whimsy).

My husband and I love to travel to Italy. My historical interests currently center on Dante’s Florence, so we can often be found in Florence or elsewhere in Tuscany, absorbing all the history we can find (which, believe me, is a lot). We live in Madison, Wisconsin, as does my son, an artist and glassblower. We enjoy playing music and surrounding ourselves with native wild plants.

Join Tinney at  www.tinneyheath.com for more history, writing, and additional reading.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

4 responses to “Intrigue and Humor of a Fool in Medieval Florence: A Thing Done by Tinney Sue Heath

  1. Sounds interesting! Fools are ever-present but rarely get their own books. Christopher Moore’s book, Fool, is a retelling of King Lear from the fool’s view with bits of Shakespeare and Moore’s typical bawdy wit. Touching and very funny if you like tales of fools. 🙂

    Like

  2. Thanks for a great review, Erin. You’ve done an excellent job discussing the nuances of Heath’s portrayal of Florence’s underclasses and the tough choices the fool faces. I also loved this book. Great to hear others who shared my enthusiasm.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s