‘It was incredible how fear and danger never produced ignoble words but always true ones, words that were torn from your very heart.’
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.
‘It was as if her writing was a very important secret that I had been waiting all my life to discover . . . her words seemed to express something completely true about my experience of living, and about life.’ Sally Rooney
‘A remarkable book.’ BBC Radio 4 Front Row
‘Ginzburg’s books snare so much of what is odd and lovely and fleeting in the world.’ New York Times
‘A beautiful, intricate story.’ The Face Magazine
‘A panoramic, richly satisfying story of two Italian families as their lives are inexorably shaped by the encroaching war … A terrific discovery.’ The Jewish Chronicle
‘Ginzburg’s beautiful words have such solidarity. I read her with joy and amazement.’ Tessa Hadley
‘Ginzburg is a unique voice and there’s a direct simplicity to her prose that makes her dry observations all the more riveting.’ Guardian