Anna, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl in a small town in northern Italy, finds herself pregnant after a brief romance. To save her reputation, she marries an eccentric older family friend, Cenzo Rena, and they move to his village in the south. Their relationship 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.
‘I’m utterly entranced by Ginzburg’s style – her mysterious directness, her salutary ability to lay things bare that never feels contrived or cold, only necessary, honest, clear.’ – Maggie Nelson
‘A glowing light of modern Italian literature . . . Ginzburg’s magic is the utter simplicity of her prose, suddenly illuminated by one word that makes a lightning streak of a plain phrase . . . As direct and clean as if it were carved in stone, it yet speaks thoughts of the heart.’ – New York Times Book Review
‘A profound commentary on Italian life.’ – Tim Parks, London Review of Books