ANTONIO’S WIFE by Jacqueline DeJohn


Email this review


An Italian diva searches for her long-lost daughter, now rumored to be in America.

Set in New York during the early 1900s, moving between uptown opera house and Lower East Side tenements, the story teems with characters and action as it introduces acclaimed Francesca Frascatti, under contract to star in Tosca. But Cesca has more on her mind than being applauded and well paid; she’s searching for Maria Grazia, the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago. Also in town from Naples is newly married mail-order bride and lace-maker Mina, wife of abusive and philandering ditch-digger Antonio. Hinting at a troubled past, Mina becomes Cesca’s dresser and soon wins the affection of both the diva and her “fiancé” Dante, who’s really a detective conducting the search for Maria. He’s soon smitten with Mina, who’s also attracted but feels committed to Antonio, despite his brutal beatings. The storyline is further complicated by the presence of rich and noble Don Emilio, who blames Cesca for the untimely death of his son, her lover, and wants to find his lost granddaughter before Cesca does. The diva is soon convinced that Mina, who has earrings that Cesca gave to Maria and recalls places that Cesca also recognizes, is her daughter. She hides Mina as Antonio, his avaricious Irish mistress, the Black Hand, the NYPD, Don Emilio, and his minions all try to thwart her. Antonio, promised money by Don Emilio, abducts and imprisons Mina, now pregnant with his child. As she schemes to free herself, her enemies act ruthlessly to prevent her escape while Cesca and Dante search desperately and find allies of their own. A murder follows, Cesca is briefly held responsible, Mina is eventually found, and there are even more revelations before the curtain is mercifully rung down.

A melodramatic debut novel with as many twists and turns as an opera libretto.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-055800-8
Page count: 448pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2004