Author: Michael Schmicker
Type of book: psychics, mediums, spirits, ghosts, channeling, seance, table levitations, skepticism, faith vs science, Italy 1899, responsibility, Europe travel
Year it was published: 2015
Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra's mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know - does the "Queen of Spirits" really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she's simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England's Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. Inspired by the true-life story of controversial Italian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter,19th-century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.
There are quite a few characters such as Alexandra, a spiritual medium from Naples that has her own issues and life crop up frequently. For some odd reason, from her speech I often picture her as a kind and a naive grandmotherly type, but she is anything but grandmotherly; she is tough, honorable, vain and sacrificing. Tomasso is a sixteen year old boy who is assigned to be her photographer and is described as extremely handsome, tough, endearing and he seemed to see Alexandra as a goddess and had trouble accepting or understanding her flaws. Most of the story is seen through his eyes, and it tends to color characters that are against Alexandra as bad and one sided. Other characters include Camillo Lombardi who is a skeptic but then becomes Alexandra's follower as well as extremely dedicated. Then there is Nigel who is in denial and will do whatever he can to discredit Alexandra and Camillo.
There is a lot of unexplained phenomena
The story is told in first person narrative from Tomasso's point of view. I admired that one can see the characters in the story from his point of view, but for me it seemed that others are seen at an expense of his own development, at least until the end, and frustratingly enough, the author seemed to be vague with Tomasso's future in a certain area. However, it is obvious that the author has done a lot of research when it came to the time period and people who populate it.
I have no doubt that a lot of people dabbled a little in the spiritual realm whether by use of horoscopes, tarot cards, numerology, fortunetellers, and so forth. Personally for me, I also dabbled a little in the esoteric realm of tarot cards and astrology. I often imagine that these things are more of diversion rather than something to take seriously. This book, interestingly enough, pits esoteric realms versus science and reason within one woman and her group of haters and supporters. The narrator of the story strikes me as biased and doesn't present the other side as clearly as one hopes. There is conflict and difficulty in reconciling the two, but how the psychic managed to do these feats is certainly baffling for reason. Its an interesting read and look at how the psychics were seen and tested as well as some of the powers they possessed, but it doesn't really establish the mystery that the author hopes for.
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4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)