Whatever her subject, Walton's fiercest weapon is her delicious ambiguity ... opens with a beautifully rendered retelling of the life of Savonarola ... a cast of characters, each with the ringing verisimilitude of well-researched, real historical personages ... in Walton's hands, the idea of a life lived and lived again takes on a new, rich ambiguity ... Walton is a prodigious and talented literary critic, with a gift for showing how books reflect the personal strengths and weaknesses of their authors. Walton's friendship with Palmer is producing a literary legacy that future critics will celebrate.
Lent...is in many respects an extension of several of the thematic arguments (and historical interests) already seen in that Plato’s Republic trilogy, albeit one oddly—given its protagonist—in some ways less theological and more philosophical than those previous novels. Here, the meditation is on damnation and salvation, in the place of divinity, but the argument about right action, responsibility, and personal change remains, seen from different angles, and given different weights ... Walton gives us a detailed, atmospheric, deeply believable Renaissance Florence. Girolamo is a fascinating, complex character ... Most interesting for me are Girolamo’s relationships with the women with whom he is occasionally in contact: relationships based on shared spiritual or political concerns ... Its first section...looks like it might be a political-historical thriller in shape and form, an alternate history with visible demons. But it transforms into deep character study ... I’m not convinced that Walton pulls off the conclusion, but it’s a deeply compelling novel, ambitious and kind, and deeply rooted in the intellectual life of the Renaissance. I enjoyed it immensely.
... a dense but rewarding look at the long, long road to redemption. The background characters—including some well-known historical figures—are an interesting and varied bunch, and the trials of Florence are a wonderful backdrop for the story.