I wonder how many books are about maids, or at least books in which maids figure prominently. The servant in this story dies seconds before the tale begins, making for an intriguing beginning. Mennulara has taken care of the Alfallipe family in Sicily for years, but she was no ordinary maid, and her life is told in fits and starts as the novel progresses.
Which I guess is my main criticism of it. For more than half the story, we only hear from the villagers guessing who Mennulara really was. I understand Agnello Hornby has to set up different perspectives and different aspects to Mennulara's life, but it makes the tale a little boring. In addition, there are SO many villagers, it's easy to lose track of who is who and who hates Mennulara and who likes her.
So, I guess my advice is to read this book fast (which is completely do-able) and don't do what I did which was put it down for another book for a month or so. The ending is worth it, and this strategy should make it easier to keep a handle on what's happening.