The Book of the Virgins, published here in its first English translation, is one of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s very first collections. Remarkable for its descriptive powers, it is a compelling account of self-knowledge and coming-of-age. Recovering from a near-fatal illness, a young woman resolves to experience for herself all that life has to offer. Spurning her old saintly ways, she sets out to explore the beauty and energy in everything around her. But as she senses the first stirrings of passion, so too comes tragedy, and with it, the realization that to truly live, she must embrace life in all its brutality. Poet, dramatist, novelist, and one of the most popular and controversial Italian writers of the 20th century, Gabriele D’Annunzio represented the very height of decadence in Italy.