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As the novel opens, aristocratic Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel pleads with the High Court of Naples to be beheaded instead of hanged like a criminal. One of the leading revolutionaries of her time, Eleonora contributed to the establishment of the Neapolitan Republic, based on the ideals of the French Revolution. Imprisoned in 1799 after the return of the Bourbon Monarchy - due to her work as editor-in-chief of Il Monitore Napoletano - and while waiting to be sentenced, she writes a memoir. Here, she discusses not only her revolutionary enthusiasm, but also the adolescent lover who abandoned her, Joseph Correia da Serra.
While visiting Monticello many years later, Joseph discovers Eleonora's manuscript in Thomas Jefferson's library. Now retired, Jefferson is committed to founding the University of Virginia and entices Correia with a position when the institution opens. As the two philosophes explore Eleonora's writing through the lens of their own lives, achievements, and follies, they share many intimate secrets.
Told from Eleonora and Joseph's alternating points of view, the interwoven first-person narratives follow the characters from the elegant salons of Naples to the halls of Monticello, from the streets of European capitals such as Lisbon, London, and Paris to the cultured new world of Philadelphia and the chic soirées in Washington.
Eleonora and Joseph were both prominent figures of the Southern European Enlightenment. Together with Thomas Jefferson, they formed part of The Republic of Letters, a formidable network of thinkers who radically influenced the intellectual world in which they lived - and which we still inhabit today.
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HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
Rodrigues' writing is beautiful, and she brings the historical characters to life. The novel is told in alternating chapters, interspersing the conversations between Joseph and Jefferson at Monticello with Eleonora's memoir, which Joseph is reading. The scenes at Monticello are fascinating, with Joseph and Jefferson discussing a wide range of topics, including slavery, revolution, and science. Rodrigues makes the reader sympathize with the protagonists, and the book left me wanting to read more, especially about Eleonora.
Eleonora and Joseph is a passionate novel of love and revolution. In 1799, Eleonora Pimentel stands before the High Court of the Kingdom of Naples. She has been accused of treason. During her trial, Eleonora pens a memoir, giving details of the life events that led up to her arrest. Eleonora's life was revolutionary in thought, word, and deed.
Julieta Almeida Rodrigues' Portuguese roots shine brightly in this romantic historical novel. The narrative is fictional, yet full of historical accuracy.
THE US REVIEW OF BOOKS
The complex, contradictory characterizations and historical details of the Enlightenment era are skillfully handled and clarified in straightforward but descriptive prose that will satisfy both academic and non-academic readers.
The most interesting player of all is Eleonora, a "martyr of liberty" whose illustrious life ends tragically at the gallows in 1799 with some of her fellow revolutionaries in Naples.