I have gone here before, but would like to return to the discussion of the importance of the publisher to the avid reader. Europa is an imprint that should resonate with lovers of books but especially those who enjoy literary works. Looking for the tiny Stork colophon on the spines of their books will reward those who take the trouble. That’s not to say that there are not plenty of juicy recreational reads in this list, just that they are of a uniformly high quality. I will descend from the soapbox, now.
Andrea Camilleri is one of the most-loved authors in Europe and is becoming one here. Best known for his Salvo Montalbano mysteries set in Sicily, he presents us here with a historical novel encompassing his skills as a researcher combined with the masterful ability to wring not only meaning from a story but fun, too. His sly, wry approach to matters of morality, politics, crime and sexual dynamics seasons a stew of facts and fiction to perfection.
During the 17th century Sicily was ruled by Charles III of Spain through an appointed viceroy. For a brief 27 days following the death of Angel de Guzman, marquis of Castel de Roderigo, his wife, Donna Eleanora took his place as specified in his will and performed that function. During this period she was able to accomplish an astonishing number of reforms, eject numerous corrupt officials from public office and institute charitable organizations dedicated to the betterment of women, the poor and the families of common folk. These achievements were accomplished despite the opposition of powerful men who were deeply entrenched in the government and who plied official obstruction, sabotage and outright criminal behavior in the defense of their status quo. Overcoming sexual prejudice, religious intransigence and lethal attacks upon her allies she became a heroic figure to the people of Sicily. This is all recorded in the histories of the time.
What won’t be found in those annals is the tragic, joyful, cynical and compelling account bestowed upon us by this talented author. By turns thrilling, suspenseful and comic, this narrative is pure pleasure to read. If you haven’t discovered Camilleri yet, get thee to a bookstore.
Shelf Talker: From the creator of the Montalabano mysteries comes a slyly tragicomic historical novel of 17th century Sicily with all its deceits, plots, counterplots and sexual politics.