A Most Unusual Request fictionalizes an adolescent burst of passion between the gifted aristocrat Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel (1752-1799) and the cosmopolitan Joseph Correia da Serra (1751-1823). After the brief encounter, Eleonora and Correia follow singular paths but remain in each other's hearts for the rest of their lives. The novel sets these two famous figures of the Southern European Enlightenment against the downfall of the Neapolitan Republic of 1799.
Eleonora, an outspoken sympathizer of the French Revolution, feels compelled to write a memoir from a Neapolitan prison at the end of her life. Here, she describes the reasons that lead her to play a pivotal role as editor-in-chief of Il Monitore Napoletano, the republican newspaper, when France conquered Bourbon Naples. The monarchy, however, reconquers Naples with the help of Admiral Nelson, as well as Lord and Lady Hamilton. Eleonora fears now she might pay for her daring with her life.
Correia becomes an expert botanist, philosophe, and urbane Catholic priest. Now in the US, he strikes up a close friendship with the retired Thomas Jefferson, who tries to entice him with his plans for the University of Virginia. While the two men share the ideals of the age, they also display an uncommon ability to disguise their own secrets. In time, Correia might succeed in his dream of becoming the diplomatic envoy from the United Kingdom of Portugal and Brazil.
The novel is organized in alternating chapters with two interwoven first-person narratives. It shifts from Eleonora's intimate voice in her memoir to Correia's point of view as he describes his encounters with Jefferson. The two accounts share many common moments throughout the book.
I am looking for a literary agent and/or a publisher for this novel either in the United States or Portugal.
Praise by Kenneth David Jackson
Professor of Portuguese
Novelist Julieta Almeida Rodrigues has a varied and broad background, I would even call it adventurous. Following the strong tradition of Portuguese female writers, she brings to her novel A Most Unusual Request, her experience of both the 1974 revolution in Portugal and her life in diplomatic circles around the world. The life of Joseph Correia da Serra has been the subject of biographies in Portuguese, while his contacts with Thomas Jefferson deserve to be explored in English. In addition, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel's narration from prison is a striking frame from which to foreground issues of passion, patriarchy, inequality, slavery, and struggles for female independence.
A must read of imaginary lives in European and American intellectual circles at the turn of the 18th century!