Saint Cecilia is listed in the Catholic Mass’ Commemoration of the Dead. Her feast day is easy to remember because it is the same day President Kennedy was assassinated: November 22. She is the patron saint of musicians and Church music because she is said to have sung as she was dying. According to hagiography, she was a Roman noble woman who converted to Christianity toward the end of the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.). An only child, she married a man, Valerian, who along with his brother preceded her in martyrdom for their mutually-held religion. Cecilia survived several attempted executions, but finally after lingering a few days, she, still young, passed into Church history. The verifiable information about Saint Cecilia’s life is quite sparse, and so a novelist has plenty of elbow room for embellishment. Linda Ferri’s CECILIA takes apt advantage of this opportunity for invention in the name of rounding out characters, time, and place.
This extraordinary voyage of exploration, guided by Alberto Angela with the charm of a born storyteller, lasts twenty-four hours, beginning at dawn on an ordinary day in the year 115 A.D., with Imperial Rome at the height of its power.
Marcus Didius Falco’s eighteen previous escapades took him, when he wasn’t at home in Rome, to Naples, Capua, and outward to Greece, Spain, Germany, and Britain. This time, in the Spring of A.D. 77, he and his family arrive in Egypt to see the Pyramids at Giza. But first they sail from Rhodes to the city Alexander the Great built, where they’ll stay a while with Falco’s Uncle Fulvius. Alexandria beckons them with the huge landmark, the famed Lighthouse.