"De Cespedes' work has lost none of its subversive force” —The New York Times Book Review
* "De Céspedes’s melancholy testament to a hidden life feels timeless and vital." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
From the author of Forbidden Notebook, Alba de Céspedes, a richly told novel she called “the story of a great love and of a crime.”
As she looks back on her life, Alessandra Corteggiani recalls her youth during the rise of fascism in Italy, the resistance, and the fall of Mussolini, the lives of the women in her family and her working-class neighborhood, rigorously committed to telling “her side of the story.”
Alessandra witnesses her mother, an aspiring concert pianist, suffer from the inability to escape her oppressive marriage. Later, she is sent away to live with her father's relatives in the country, in the hope she’ll finally learn to submit herself to the patriarchal system and authority. But at the farm, Alessandra grows increasingly rebellious, conscious of the unjust treatment of generations of hardworking women in her family. When she refuses the marriage proposal from a neighboring farmer, she is sent back to Rome to tend to her ailing father.
In Rome, Alessandra meets Francesco, a charismatic anti-fascist professor, who ostensibly admires and supports her sense of independence and justice. But she soon comes to recognize that even as she respects Francesco and is keen to participate in his struggle to reclaim their country from fascism, this respect is unrequited, and that her own beloved husband is ensnared by patriarchal conventions when it comes to their relationship.
In these pages, De Céspedes delivers a breathtakingly accurate and timeless portrayal of the complexity of the female condition against the dramatic backdrop of WWII and the partisan uprising in Italy.
About the Author
Alba de Céspedes (1911–1997) was a bestselling Italian-Cuban feminist writer greatly influenced by the cultural developments that lead to and resulted from World War II. In 1935, she was jailed for her anti-fascist activities in Italy. Two of her novels were also banned—Nessuno Torna Indietro (1938) and La Fuga (1940). In 1943, she was again imprisoned for her assistance with Radio Partigiana in Bari, where she was a resistance radio personality known as Clorinda. After the war, she moved to Paris, where she lived until her death in 1997.
TRANSLATOR BIO: Jill Foulston is the translator of novels by Erri de Luca, Augusto de Angelis, and Piero Chiara.
★ "De Céspedes’s melancholy testament to a hidden life feels timeless and vital." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A lavishly detailed critique of romantic ideals and social constrictions." —Kirkus Reviews
"De Cespedes' work has lost none of its subversive force." —The New York Times Book Review
"Asks perennial questions about the value and dangers of an examined life." —Lara Feigel, The Guardian