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The Marchesa

by Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Translated by Alastair McEwen

A triumphant follow-up to Simonetta Agnello Hornby’s internationally acclaimed The Almond Picker, this entertaining new novel is an intricate family saga interwoven with violent passions, cruelty, deceit, and the abuse of power. The Marchesa is an eye-opening historical drama about a remarkable woman and her extraordinary family, and the complex, often abusive relations that mark the lives of master and servant, brother and sister, husband and wife. Costanza Safamita, beloved daughter of Baron Domenico Safamita, is a precious but unusual child. Redhaired, gawky, and shy, she is considered an outsider by many on the family estate, but her adoring father makes her sole heir to the Safamita fortune, and then everything changes—for them and for her. Now she must conquer glittering, alien Palermo—where, uncertain of her future, she falls in love with a charming, dissolute young marchese whose sexual appetite she fears she cannot satiate. The Marchesa’s brave, unusual story offers an unprecedented woman’s perspective on the incestuous hypocrisy of the Sicilian aristocracy during a dramatic time in its history, as the Bourbon monarchy collapsed, the Mafia rose to power, and Palermo’s decadent aristocracy began its inevitable decline. These themes are flawlessly woven into the fabric of Costanza’s triumphant life, so that The Marchesa becomes not only an unforgettable human tale but a masterly fresco of a vanished world.