The Godmother: Murder, Vengeance, and the Bloody Struggle of Mafia Women

Penguin Books. Sept. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9780143136118. pap. $17. CRIME
Rome-based investigative journalist Nadeau (Roadmap to Hell) writes an account of one woman’s rise to power in the Neapolitan Mafia. Pupetta Maresca married into a Mafia family as a teenager, then found herself pregnant, widowed, and in prison for murder within six months of her wedding. Nadeau writes that Maresca’s power and reputation in the Mafia grew until she was infamous as a ruthless leader of the Camorra. Maresca, however, is not the norm for Mafia women, Nadeau writes. She interweaves Maresca’s tale with absorbing stories of other Mafia women whose lives were much darker and deadlier than Pupetta’s, plus details of an Italian culture that is rarely shown. Using personal interviews with women in the Mafia, along with other research, Nadeau argues that real Mafia women are vastly different from the archetypes portrayed in film and TV.
VERDICT Fans of Mafia-related pop culture and history will enjoy Nadeau’s book, even as it overturns everything we thought we knew about the Mafia.
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