Verdict: IN THE HOUSE OF LEVIATHAN weaves themes of horror, personal struggle, and faith into a captivating read.
Nestled along the Italian coastline, the seas rage outside Amalfi, threatening the fishermen that sustain the city, while a terrifying spirit haunts the Apuzzo family at their paper mill.
Set in 1862, the story follows Achilles Apuzzo, war hero of Amalfi, but also tragically the only soldier from the city to return from the recent wars. Like his namesake, Achilles is a physically powerful and imposing man, but also has his weaknesses. At the end of the war, a cannonball destroyed much of one calf, and although he managed to recover, he limps on the leg. Nowadays, he runs the family’s paper mill, with help from his morose brother Alessandro and his younger sister Carmelina.
All is not well at the mill, and strange events cannot be readily explained. A gate in one of the canals slams open and closed of its own volition, and Carmelina’s chair moves across the floor of her bedroom. The discontent of the mill fills its residents as well, as evidenced most strongly by Alessandro, but also in more subtle ways by Achilles and Carmelina. The danger quickly escalates to affect more than just the Apuzzo family.
IN THE HOUSE OF LEVIATHAN opens slowly, and the strangeness of the events pulls the reader in enough to become invested in the story. However, the strength of this book is in the characters, who are realistically drawn and intriguing. Even those that seem uncomplicated gradually reveal the thoughts and secrets that drive them, showing that they are not simple caricatures.
This novel is easy to read, with few errors in spelling or grammar. Some of the details of the setting are tough to visualize from the descriptions (particularly the workings of the paper mill), but this does not detract from the overall understanding.
The town of Amalfi is filled with rumors that Leviathan is responsible for the tragedies and difficulties of the fishermen. However, little detail is provided about Leviathan until more than halfway through the book. Until reaching this point, the reader may not realize that Leviathan is a myth from the Old Testament and, in the context of the book, more than just a generic sea monster.
IN THE HOUSE OF LEVIATHAN weaves themes of horror, personal struggle, and faith into a captivating read.