The Revolution of the Moon

Written by Andrea Camilleri Stephen Sartarelli (trans.)
Review by Vicki Kondelik

Andrea Camilleri, author of the popular Inspector Montalbano mystery series, brings us an entertaining historical novel, written with tongue firmly in cheek, set in 1677 Sicily. When Don Angel, the Spanish viceroy of Sicily, dies suddenly, he leaves a will naming his wife, Donna Eleonora, as his successor. She immediately dismisses the corrupt members of the royal council and passes laws lowering the price of bread and creating shelters for orphans and former prostitutes. In a land suffering from poverty and the resulting uprisings, she becomes a heroine of the common people. But the former councilors, who are afraid of having their crimes exposed and are horrified by the thought of a female ruler, plot their revenge. When Eleonora attempts to have the Bishop of Palermo tried for abusing choirboys, he asks the Pope to intervene and have her removed from office. The Bishop has people murdered to cover up his crimes, and with the choirboys’ families too afraid to testify against the Bishop, he may escape punishment. Will Eleonora succeed in having him arrested before the Pope decides to put her reign to an end?

Camilleri brings this little-known historical episode to life and makes Eleonora an admirable, intelligent heroine we all hope will triumph in the end, although history tells us to expect a bittersweet ending. Camilleri takes liberties with some facts to suit his narrative, but since the episode is so obscure, these should not bother the reader. The novel is sprinkled with humor throughout, and it may take some readers a while to get used to Camilleri’s particular sense of humor. But those who persist will be rewarded, and Eleonora, a woman forgotten by history, will come alive to the reader. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover a remarkable, forgotten woman.