This week saw the publication day for Juliet Grames’ new novel The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna and today I am offering my review. Many thanks to Louise Swannell from Hodder Books and of course Author Juliet for allowing me to read this story before it’;s general release. Enjoy!
Everybody in the Fortuna family knows the story of how the beautiful, fiercely independent Stella, who refused to learn to cook and who swore she would never marry, has escaped death time and time again.
From her childhood in Italy, to her adulthood in America, death has seemed to pursue Stella. She has been burned, eviscerated and bludgeoned; she has choked, nearly fallen out of a window, and on one occasion, her life was only saved by a typo.
However, even the best-known stories still have secrets to reveal . . . and even after a century, Stella’s is no exception.
No woman survives seven or eight deaths without a reason. So, how did she? In a tale which spans nine decades, two continents, and one family’s darkest, deepest-buried truths, the answer awaits. . .
This epic family saga is set over nearly a century, documenting the Fortuna’s life from their humble beginnings in the remote mountain village of Ievoli in Italy to their immigration to Connecticut in the USA and beyond. Author Juliet Grames has used the story of her own Grandmother, Stella Fortuna and that of her Italian-American family heritage as inspiration to produce what has obviously been a labour of love for her.
Stella is the second child of the Fortuna family and is named in memory of their deceased first-born child Mariastella. Living in the constant shadow of her sister Stella appears to have some sort of special ‘power’ that sees her survive multiple brushes with death that most would struggle to survive, with many believing she is cursed. Her life and that of her Mother and sibling’s is by no means an easy one and the family face hardship, heartache and abuse in their fight for survival.
When I first picked up this book, I had no idea it was written using a real-life story as inspiration and despite it not being something, I would usually opt for I thoroughly enjoyed it. Set over such a prolonged period of time it gave a glimpse into some prominent points in history including the war and Mussolini’s reign over Italy which I found really interesting as it’s a topic I have studied before. It also explores immigration and cultural topics in-depth alongside the family dynamics and relationships which form the focal point of the story.
It’s such a difficult book to sum up in a few paragraphs as it has so much going on within its pages, however if you are looking for a light-hearted, happy read then this is probably not the book for you. It’s rather a dark tale with very few glimpses of happiness, however it had me riveted from the beginning and kept me continually turning the pages to discover more about the Fortuna’s. It’s quite a long read at 448 pages, but didn’t feel it as I was swept up with the story which is littered with shocking twists along the way. I really enjoyed the easy style the author has which made the narrative flow quickly and easily whilst immersing me as the reader in this incredible story.
It’s clear that the author has done a serious amount of research in order to produce this wonderfully written book about the extraordinary life of her Grandmother and it’s a beautiful piece of work that she should be extremely proud of.
TRIGGER WARNING: Mental, physical and sexual abuse
About The Author
Juliet Grames was born outside of Hartford, Connecticut, into a tight-knit Italian-American family. She attended Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history from Columbia College. For the last fifteen years she has worked in book publishing and is currently Associate Publisher at Soho Press where she edits literary and crime fiction and literature in translation. She lives in Brooklyn.