Vittoria Armieri is a cleaner at a ministry in Rome, but there is more to her than meets the eye. She has what some people might consider a gift. She considers it to be a curse. She can see into people’s pasts, read their thoughts and know their feelings. After putting up with the loneliness this has caused her over the years, she’s ready to die, preferably at someone else’s hand.
This starts off quite bleak, with Vittoria sitting on a bench, watching a man who she knows is a convicted killer, as she contemplate whether he might be the one to kill her. It’s well written and captures the mood of the protagonist. Luckily, the tone changes through the book and it’s not as depressing as it sounds.
The characters were well developed. Vittoria’s obsession with her beauty when she was younger is shown through her narrative, which switches between her present and past, highlighting her biggest regrets. While her ex, the man who never seemed to care for her, comes across as the kind of person no woman would want to get involved with, but Vittoria seems to be blind to his faults, even with her gift (or curse). It’s typical of many intelligent people who become so infatuated with someone, they fail or refuse to see the flaws.
Another impressive thing about the author, Aldo Cernuto, is that English isn’t his first language. Yet the story is beautifully told, resembling a fairytale in places, as it follows Vittoria’s path to redemption and self-acceptance.
Also, as a man writing a woman in the first person POV, this could have gone wrong in so many ways. However, he made the character feel believable and three-dimensional. I was rooting for Vittoria and felt pleased with the ending, which I won’t spoil.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something a bit different. Having listened to an interview with Aldo, he comes across as unassuming. It’s refreshing to see someone with so much talent and an equal amount of modesty.
Review by Amanda Steel
Amanda presents the Reading In Bed podcast on Anchor FM