The Witch of Napoli is a work of fiction, based on the famous Italian medium Eusapia Palladino. In this fictionalized version of Palladino’s story, Michael Schmicker has created his character Alessandra Poverelli in the lead role. Like Palladino, Alessandra rises from orphaned peasant girl to controversial spiritual medium. Schmiker surrounds Alessandra with a variety of supportive believers and antagonistic skeptics to weave his story.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Witch of Napoli. I’ve always been fascinated with anything to do with spirits, mediums and the occult, and this book definitely did not disappoint me. The author has done a wonderful job documenting the Spiritualist Movement. It’s clear that a great deal of research has gone into the planning of this book. However, as can be the case with books based on historical events, this book never came off as a dry documentary. There’s definitely a compelling story within the pages of The Witch of Napoli.
I was riveted by Alessandra’s many struggles and her willful desire to be taken seriously as a reputable medium. Her heartbreaking and difficult life made her a sympathetic and likable character. Choosing Tommaso, Alessandra’s loyal supporter and constant companion, to be the story’s POV character was an excellent decision. Tommaso was a charming character. Although his success depended greatly on Alessandra’s success he was able to remain a kind and loving friend to Alessandra, while keeping her unpredictable behavior in continual check. Alessandra’s eventual nemesis Huxley was a hateful, spiteful bully whose relentless persecution of Alessandra eventually contributed to her failing health. I felt that the author did an excellent job developing his characters.
There were a couple of times at the beginning of the book where the author switched from past tense to present tense – for what reason I wasn’t sure, but I did find it somewhat jarring. Fortunately, after a few chapters the book remained in past tense. Other than that, I found the author’s writing flowed well and moved the story along nicely. I was able to breeze through the book in a little over a day. Highly recommended!
5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton