The protagonists of these two astute, finely burnished novellas by the eminent Italian author are young women who learn to accept the cultural lesson that deems it their duty to secure a man. Courtship and marriage become battlefields where they are tested, wounded and/or decorated. In ``The Road to the City,'' 17-year-old Delia, whose harried, toothless mother ``spent her days cursing her children,'' looks to the city for escape. Caught in the delirium of her seduction by Giulio, a crass but affluent medical student whom she hopes to marry, Delia fails to note the deep reciprocal love she feels for the poor, intellectual Nini. Pregnant, seemingly deserted, Delia finally yields to her bittersweet fate. ``The Dry Heart'' opens with a wife in her 20s, once a drab schoolteacher, who shoots her husband after she has devoted painful years to their sickly baby. Albert was a man ``who quickly tired of everything'' but his obsessive affair with another woman. In each novella, the heroine's agony is sharpened by the presence of a frivolous, heartless beauty, sister or friend, who indulges her own pleasures with impunity. (Apr.)
In Ginzburg's Italian country towns, the road to the city is not for the faint-hearted. The heroine-narrators of these two meticulously crafted novellas may have grand dreams of city life, but they lack the courage, intelligence, or sophistication to succeed. In ``The Road to the City,'' Delia has a tragic affair with a worldly medical student who takes her to the city, gets her pregnant, and promises to marry her, when she really should have stayed home and married Nini, a distant relative with whom she grew up. In ``The Dry Heart,'' the daughter of a country doctor marries an older artist , who takes her to the city to live, gives her a child, and betrays her. She begins her story with a matter-of-fact denouement: ``I shot him between the eyes.'' Ginzburg's own eyes are, as always, clear, penetrating, and unflinching as she portrays these perhaps unsympathetic but truly memorable characters. Highly recommended.-- Marcia G. Fuchs, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.