The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker
Book Review: 3 out of 5 star rating
Interesting book about a medium during the late Victorian age and the efforts of scientists and the church to expose her as a fraud. This book is based on a real person, Eusapia Palladino, and it spiked my interest enough that I’ll be turning to Google to find out more about her.
The narrator of the story is Tommaso, a young photographer/reporter who took a famous photo of the medium, Alessandra Poverelli, levitating a table. He’s a likeable enough character and is the source of quite a bit of humor in the book though I wish that Alessandra would have told her own story. Tommaso, even though he himself becomes very involved in the events, tells it almost as a newspaper story. . I wasn’t able to feel much connection with the characters. The book is quite well researched and detailed. The author used accounts from the actual séances performed by Eusapia Palladino and the testing done in an attempt to prove her to be a fraud and that’s the most interesting part of the book. I think this book would have been better if written as a biography instead of a novel. The author may be more comfortable writing non-fiction. Possibly there wasn’t enough background on the real medium’s life so the author felt the need to fill in the blanks left by history
But the séances themselves, especially when the evil spirit Alessandra was sometimes able to channel would appear, and the lengths that the scientists went to disprove her were very interesting and well worth reading.
This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley.