The Silent Duchess
In 18th-century Sicily Marianna is born to a life of extravagant luxury, daughter of charming, affectionate Duke Signoretto Ucria. She is lovely and intelligent, descendant of an ancient aristocratic family but she has what was then a fixed, untreatable handicap: she is a deaf-mute. Her only possibility of marriage is a union with her own uncle, the eccentric Duke Petro. Her bleak life with a deeply flawed and cold man might have been wretched indeed but for her own extraordinary qualities of determination, compassion and an outstanding ability for organisation, making use of the qualities of others.
Reading and writing are her only means of communication in a society given over to pleasure: even a nun may wear a designer habit and a sapphire crucifix. But Marianna’s passion is studying the new philosophical works of French and English writers and, especially, the Scotsman David Hume. After years of duty to her pitiable uncle/husband and their family, this surely unique woman discovers the power of physical passion and its joys. With Duke Petro dead she has three choices: a placid union with a man who admires her intellect – but admires his own even more; to remain with her handsome young lover or to follow an entirely different path. At the conclusion of this remarkable novel she has made her decision.
Beautifully written, vividly detailed The Silent Duchess offers a rich treat.