“Is not empathy that consciousness leading us, unwitting, into the realm of spirits, avatars, even demons? Are not the dead still trying to reach the living?”
Welcome to Palmerino, the British enclave in rural Italy where Violet Paget, known to the world by her pen name and male persona, Vernon Lee, held court. In imagining the real life of this brilliant, lesbian polymath known for her chilling supernatural stories, Pritchard creates a multilayered tale in which the dead writer inhabits the heart and mind of her lonely, modern-day biographer.
Positing the art of biography as an act of resurrection and possession, this novel brings to life a vividly detailed, subtly erotic tale about secret loves and the fascinating artists and intellectuals—Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent, Henry James, Robert Browning, Bernard Berenson—who challenged and inspired each other during an age of repression.
“Enthralling . . . An intriguing introduction to Violet Paget, and an unusual look into the mysteries of writing.”
“A richly imagined, sensuous tale of a British writer holding court in Italy, flouting Victorian mores via her writing and her sexuality.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“The achingly gorgeous prose in which Palmerino is written strikes pitch-perfect harmony with its equally strong expression of humanity, promising that the hidden beauty within is always worth the time it takes to discover it.”
—Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
“Rarely has a novel based on real people reached such deftly crafted literary excellence as this historical work of fiction clearly documenting Melissa Pritchard as a writer equal to any of the people populating her superbly presented story.”
—Midwest Book Review
“In a mere 192 pages, Melissa Pritchard has created a rich, lush, and riveting story of two women writers in different eras.”
“Lush, tactile descriptions and impressionistic scenes bring alive this historical novel…cast(ing) Paget and her late-nineteenth century lifestyle in a captivating light.”
“Pritchard blurs past and present, male and female, living and dead, and reality and fiction in a supernaturally infused, innovative story about Victorian-era novelist Vernon Lee and her modern-day biographer…. [She] excellently maintains control of a multifaceted exploration of lesbianism.”
“Palmerino finds Melissa Pritchard’s signature style in peak form. Pritchard is a writer of sensibility. Her unique gift is the ability to interweave the resonances of consciousness—memory, intelligence, emotion—with those of a historical time and a powerful sense of place, so that character emerges as a coherent, credible, internal voice uttering a sensual flow of language, both lush and precise.”
—Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago
“A taut and elegant imagining of Vernon Lee’s life that sparkles with Einfühlung for the writer, for Italy and for the love—wild, unconsummated, shattered—that lies at the heart of the best creative work. Weaving fact and fiction, past and present, Palmerino becomes its own beautiful mirror, a work that ‘slips free of the self’ to reveal the mysterious other. Sublime and moving, its gorgeous prose haunts the reader long after the last page.”
—Ana Menéndez, author of Adios, Happy Homeland!
“In her subtle yet breathtaking new novel, Palmerino, Melissa Pritchard seduces us once again with her characteristically sensual and deeply poetic prose. Elegantly braiding time, this woven narrative is calibrated by Pritchard’s exquisite erotic reckonings and resonant aesthetic reflections. In resurrecting Violet Paget/ Vernon Lee at our own historical moment (and by invoking a gallery of beloved and provocative artists and esthetes), Melissa Pritchard has provided for her readers a portrait-mirror in which to gaze—a glorious vision of both Palmerino and of a writer in pursuit of its history—one that would make even Oscar Wilde blush with envy.”
—David St. John, author of The Auroras