Italian witchcraft isn’t a topic you commonly come across when reading a book, let alone a fiction book. Author Michael Schmicker’s new book The Witch of Napoli is loosely based off true historical events that took place in Italy during the nineteenth century. Orphaned as a child, main character Alessandra Poverelli, mirrors the story of nineteenth-century spiritualist and physical medium, Eusapia Palladino, a woman who believed to possesses the powers to commune with the dead and physically move objects around. Palladino spent the bulk of her life trying to convince many that she was not a fraud, however, she was caught cheating during an incident in Cambridge and despite many truly believing she did indeed possess special powers, she would forever be known as a fake.
“Signor Huxley has laid out the rules for the sitting and I’m not sure you’re going to like them all.”
Working as a photographer for the Mattino, sixteen-year-old Tommaso Labella finds himself smitten with Alessandra and tells her story for the bulk of the book, chronicling their twenty-year relationship and their rise together from poor nobodies to rubbing elbows with nobility. The daughter of a Strega, Alessandra found herself orphaned at thirteen and with an abusive partner and manager only a few years later. When Tommaso develops a telling picture during their first encounter together, they set out to prove that Alessandra’s powers are real, but quickly realize that it would take more than a picture to convince people she wasn’t a fraud. Would raising the dead convince them?
Schmicker impressively breathes an uncanny likeness into his characters bringing them to life and playing on the emotions of readers. Tommaso and Alessandra’s friendship is often difficult to swallow as their struggles feel real with all of the hardships they endured, and the emotional turmoil and helplessness of watching someone you love be loved by others and physically abused by their partner, especially to the extent and length that Alessandra endured. With just the first sentence, readers are immediately pulled into the story that is told from the ending first, peeking curiosity and quickly pulling you deep into the past as their lives quickly unravel from page to page. The Witch of Napoli is a one of a kind, deeply moving historical novel with love and romance, suspense and terror, the paranormal, and characters reminiscent of the late Arthur Conan Doyle that will surely appeal to a broader audience of readers who will find this book one they can’t easily put down.