The Road to Gesualdo

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Leonora d’Este is preparing to marry Prince Carlo Gesualdo, but it is not entirely the happy occasion it might be. Her lady-in-waiting, Livia Prevera, is worried for her mistress because of rumors spreading about the prince. People say he murdered his first wife. People say she was a witch. People say he is mad, or perhaps cursed. Leonora has no choice, however. Until she has a husband, she belongs to her family, and her brother has decided she will marry the prince.

Even though Leonora’s marriage is what launches the plot, the book is not just her story. In fact, most of it is told through the eyes of Livia or Livia’s would-be lover, Pietro Paci, and the story of their shattered romance has just as much focus as the story of Leonora’s marriage and her growing worry about her husband.

Even that is not the whole story. The book features murder, deceit, popes (well, one pope), and witchcraft: in short, everything you could ask for in sixteenth-century Italy. I was swept up in the action and intrigue, fascinated by each storyline and in love with the setting. Rummel is widely traveled and has taught history at two universities, all of which informs the rich detail she provides. Italy of ages past comes to life in her hands, showing just how strange and fascinating its culture was.

The only complaints I have about the book are that it sometimes took me a while to catch up to the action when the narrative switched points of view and that at times the descriptions made it feel like a costume drama, with so much attention paid to making sure readers can see everything about the characters that we miss out on what they’re doing. I could always follow the story, but at times, it seemed drab compared to the various folk beliefs presented.

On the whole, though, I enjoyed the book. The Road to Gesualdo is at times too understated, but at its best, it is subtle and real. The characters never descend into operatic melodrama; the stakes are real enough without that. This is a wonderful example of historical fiction, and I would love to find more books like it.

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Star Count 4/5
Format eBook
Page Count 310 pages
Publisher D. X. Varos, Ltd.
Publish Date 07-Jul-2020
ISBN 9781941072714 Buy this Book
Issue July 2021
Category Historical Fiction