An absolute delight, a captivating historical fiction set in fin-de-siècle Italy, I must admit being pleasantly surprised by the maturity in writing, pace and character chemistry. Nothing was too long, nothing felt too edgy, everything was so vivid yet somehow succinct. And these words are from someone who is mostly in the antagonistic side when it comes to spirits, occults and other ghostly thingys.
I received a promo audiobook copy in exchange for a honest review and it pretty much became a part of my daily routine, thanks to the wonderful narrator and his Italian accented accords. Quite sure my mind would have fallen short in capturing the essence and intensity from transduced retinal signals. And it hit me right in the feels by end, left me wanting for more. Story follows around the autobiographical account of an established Italian newspaper editor about his early life struggle and rise to success, all which were dependent on his acquaintance with a spirit medium, a middle aged lady from Naples. Novel starts in 18th century Italy, where according to the narrator ‘devil’ was pretty much a real thing and witches were burned. Alessandra Poverelli (if I am spelling correctly), our protagonist claim to have the ability to communicate with spirits, specifically with that of an old monk (with a rather funny name- Seven Aureola, more or less, according to my malleus, incus and stapes) , and accountable telekinesis followed these medium works, like movements of inanimate objects and stuff. So narrator, then a young late teenage boy, gets to capture a table levitation act, the photograph of which gets him and Alexandra great fame. Then onwards it’s a journey involving neo scientists and church skeptics eager to expose fraudulent mediums, realists asking scientific explanation, people eager to believe, science vs spiritualism fights and 19th century road trips.
I totally adored the way author developed the personality of title character, peeling parts by parts, leaving a pinch of doubt, never explaining the whole background, even till the last chapters. Alexandra had a really sad and complex childhood and life, yet there was this positive aura around her character always. Also author never let the relationship between the leads go astray, sweet romantic interest to strong friendship, writer kept proper balance. If this ever gets a big screen adaptation, Schmicker’s beautiful, seductive Alessandra is one potential Oscar candidate.
It was a little spooky at times, and had to leave my headphones aside at night, maybe once or twice, still collectively it never went disturbing. I was able to visualize the whole story from my little exposure to then Italy with Ezio and Da Vinci, May god bless your servers dear Ubisoft. So read along, get completely absorbed in past, research on history and maybe, try to levitate tables 🙂
This is the actual photograph of Eusapia Palladino levitating table, the one I believe inspired the book. She was a controversial figure of her time, Italian spiritualist physical medium according to wikipedia.
You can get a copy of book here, http://amzn.to/2a3UTN2