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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
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
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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