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.