*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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 the beautiful, fiercely independent Stella, 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. . .
Don’t be fooled by the whimsical title and fantastical blurb into thinking that this is some sort of supernatural fantasy adventure or similar (although there is a little dash of superstition and spiritual suspicion too): Stella Fortuna is an intimate family narrative of one of the world’s unluckiest women.
Told from the perspective of one of Stella’s descendants, the story maps right back from Stella’s mother’s marriage and life, to the birth of young Stella, and then follows the fortunes of the Fortuna family as they attempt to survive both paternal desertion and return, and eventually, reluctantly, emigrate to America.
This is not a happy tale.
Not only does poor Stella suffer from more than her fair share of potentially fatal escapades, but in the course of the plot she must also face her greatest fears and then continue to live with them and suffer from them for a long, long life. Her name is one of the cruelest ironies that could have been bestowed upon her!
This immersion into the family life and the problems faced by immigrants, and women, is deeply compelling and I found myself holding my breath as I willed things to turn out well for the strong, suffering Fortuna females.
The ending felt somewhat deflating with its lack of any clear resolution or closure, but at the same time this left us with the indomitable Fortuna spirit, to add a tiny spark of hope that there is still time for a brighter star to shine.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a family saga, rooted in realism (and some trauma), exploring the problems faced by the displaced and the powerless.
Over the course of her hundred years, the second Stella Fortuna (I will tell you about the first inn a little bit) would survive eight near-death experiences – or seven – depending on how you count them. She would be bludgeoned and concussed, she would asphyxiate, she would hemorrhage, and she would be lobotomized. She would be partially submerged in boiling oil, be split from belly to bowel on two unrelated occasions, and on a different day have her life saved only be a typo. Once she would almost accidentally commit suicide.
– Juliet Grames, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is available on Amazon right now!