I found Suzanne Palmieri’s debut novel through Twitter – by stalking, I mean following writers and agents and reading their every word on what good stuff is coming out soon. Seriously, Twitter is a great resource for avid readers looking for a heads-up on what to read next.
The Witch of Little Italy is about a young woman, Eleanor Amore, who has lost all the memories from her childhood. She doesn’t know what happened, only that her memories start with her standing outside the home of her mother’s crazy aunts – aunts that they never visit.
Eleanor has a difficult relationship with her mother, who has never attempted to explain what happened, to help Eleanor understand why she lost her memory or to give any hint as to what their life was like before Eleanor became a ‘blank slate’.
When problems threaten to overwhelm Eleanor in her adult life, she suddenly feels the urge to return to her estranged family. The old building is both welcoming and worrying, her aunts are strange indeed and the boy who lives upstairs just might be the love of her life. There is magic and mystery surrounding Eleanor’s past and present and she hopes that understanding it all will bring back her memories and bring purpose to her life.
I enjoyed reading The Witch of Little Italy, it has a lot of great elements. There is magic and romance and even a little mystery. The three aunts are wonderful characters, the kind of little old ladies you would love to meet and have tea with (actually be careful if they offer you tea!) and their mother, the matriarch of the Amore family looms large throughout the story, a very real and wonderful presence.
I was somewhat disappointed with the main character, Eleanor. She’s rather wishy washy at times, which I know is how she is actually described in the story – something of an insubstantial soul due to her memory loss, the cause and the consequences – but I failed to connect with her, and she wasn’t all that likeable. She made a bad choice, but it wasn’t her fault because she is ‘damaged’ and she kind of leaves that situation, but kind of doesn’t, she’s just hiding from it and then almost sucked back in to it. She kind of floats through the story and is never really in control of it.
The memory loss is interesting because there is some mystery surrounding how it happened, but the discussion of the memory loss between Eleanor and the other characters is very repetitive. There are conversations where it is stated over and over that Eleanor lost her memory. It’s a little bit like this paragraph where I’ve written ‘memory’ three times, it’s annoying and no new information has been gained.
The twist – the big dark secret! – is rather predictable, but still nicely dealt with and with the exception of the part where Eleanor races through a mental hospital and then to a library, searching for information on her family tree when she has no idea what she is looking for or why and there’s no real reason for her needing any family history anyway, the story wraps up smoothly.
Overall I liked The Witch of Little Italy, it’s rather whimsical and fun and I will look out for Suzanne Palmieri’s other titles in the future.