Written in 1952, this is one of the great books by Italian novelist Natalia Ginzburg. It is a scrupulous examination of the feelings of a young woman and her friends, and a portrait of two families against the subtly drawn, epic background of war, of invasion and the collapse of fascism.
Anna, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl in a small town in northern Italy, after a brief romance finds herself pregnant. To save her reputation, she marries an eccentric older family friend and they move to his village in the south. Her relationship with Cenzo Rena is touched by tragedy and grace as the events of their life in the countryside run parallel to the war and the encroaching threat of fascism – and in their wake, a society dealing with anxiety and grief.
At the heart of the novel is a concern with experiences that both deepen and deaden existence: adultery and air raids, neighbourhood quarrels and bombings. With her signature clear-eyed wit, Ginzburg asks how we can act with integrity when faced with catastrophe, and how we can love well.