The Witch of Napoli

The Witch of Napoli - Michael Schmicker

The Witch of Napoli is a fascinating look into the world of magic and occult. Based on a famous medium, Eusapia Palladino, from Italy in the mid 1800's. In this story the protagonist is Tommaso Labella, a reporter who spends time with Alessandra Poverelli on her travels as medium. She has been known to levitate tables and during her seances she speaks to the dead. Can she really do this? The head of England's Society for the Investigation of Medium believes that Alessandra is nothing but a charlatan and wants to prove this by subjecting her to numerous tests to see if there are any tricks used in her seances. 

Tommaso narrates the story and through him we learn that Alessandra was born into poverty, has a husband that beats her and only uses her for what he can gain. Tommaso accompanies Alessandra across Europe when she is asked to prove what she can do to the many skeptics that are trying to prove her false. This is at a time when people are fascinated with magic and the occult, where famous people such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes believe.

I rather enjoyed this book, I found it to be fast paced and I didn't know that this was based on a real person until I finished the book. The author used a lot of quotes, descriptions and observations from the investigations into Eusapia Palladino to make the story believable. I am not a skeptic so I loved learning about this interesting person of history. I think the author did a remarkable job of intertwining fact and fiction to tell a story of a time when science in Victorian times relied on a few noted scientists and religious beliefs. I think a lot of people at that time believed in seances because  the population did not live a long time because of diseases and epidemics, and any connection to a deceased loved one was important.

A very enjoyable read, I recommend this book highly!