The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames


About the Book

“You don’t read this book – you live it”.  Erin Kelly

Over a hundred years ago, in a mountainside village in Calabria, Italy, from a union between two young people with little to their names, a baby was born. Beautiful and adored by her mother, baby Mariastella Fortuna -known as Stella – seemed promised a happy destiny.

But if Stella Fortuna means ‘lucky star,’ then life must have a funny sense of humour.

Everybody in the Fortuna family knows the story of how Stella, once the most beautiful girl in the village of Ievoli, the unconventional, fiercely independent young woman 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. . .

What I thought

I love the quote at the top by Erin Kelly because it is so true, the story wraps around you and consumes you until you feel you’re a part of the family.

Without taking copious notes as I read the book, I won’t even attempt to mention all the characters in this book.  There are many and all with Italian names, they’re not names I could recall from memory.

It’s a very dark tale pretty much most of the way through.  Stella’s father Antonio, later referred to as Tony is a bully, his attitude towards women, especially his wife Assunta and Stella is harsh – very.  He has no respect for either of them and the culture seemed to be that of ownership.  As such, there are some violent and upsetting scenes in the book, therefore perhaps this book might not be for everyone.

The first half of the book starts out in the very early 1900’s shortly after the turn of the century and just before the first World War.  Assunta is a very young girl living in the mountains of Calabria, Italy and is only 14 when she marries Antonio.  There’s no romance, its more a marriage of convenience because that’s what women do in this small village – marry for financial security and to have children.  Unfortunately Antonio doesn’t take his responsibilities for Assunta all that seriously and pretty much abandons her to bring up their children alone, living with her mother in a tiny village scraping together a living from the land.

I enjoyed the first half very much.  Even though they lived a harsh life and struggled to gather enough food to thrive, compared to the second half of the book the family were at least on the whole relatively free of the control of Antonio.

When Antonio came back from the first World War he only stayed around for a short time before moving on to find work in America.  He would pay them a visit a couple of times but only to cause trouble and to leave Assunta pregnant yet again.  In the second half he sent visa’s for his wife and children to move over to America.  By this point Stella was a young woman and despite the fact that she was determined not to marry or to have children, it was the done thing in their culture and her Father would make sure she married whether she wanted to or not.

This is a long family saga with Stella and her sister Tina (Concettina, but that wasn’t very American so her Father shortened her name) as the main central characters.  Stella had seen so much at such a young age it was little wonder she was determined not to marry and was fearful of having children.  I especially enjoyed the way the story was told in a chronological and linear way.  There is no jumping back and forth in time.  This would have made it difficult to have followed the book as there are so many members of the family, it would have been impossible to keep up with them all, so in this respect there really wasn’t a better way to write it.

It was a fascinating story which I really enjoyed.  The many near death experiences of Stella made for compelling reading and it often seemed a miracle that she survived them.  A story of very strong women, survivors who can certainly prove the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

An excellent book, whose characters I have genuinely missed since I finished it.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

This book is due for publication both on Kindle and in hardback on 7 May 2019.

With thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC of this book via Netgalley




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