cover image Voices in the Evening

Voices in the Evening

Natalia Ginzburg, trans. from the Italian by D.M. Low. New Directions, $14.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3100-8

Ginzburg (Family Lexicon) takes a close look at the effects of fascism on an Italian family in this engrossing novel first published in 1961 and reissued with an introduction by Colm Tóibín, who sheds light on Ginzburg’s interest in her characters’ “competing versions of reality.” The wealthy De Franciscis reside at a rural estate during the years before and immediately after WWII. Patriarch Balotta, a socialist factory owner, is by turns boisterous and withdrawn, while his wife, Cecilia, maintains a close watch of the community’s gossip. The story is told by Elsa, a young woman who has an ill-fated love affair with the De Francisci’s youngest son, Tommasino. Ginzburg (1916–1991) dedicates several chapters to each of the De Francisi children: Gemmina, the oldest, becomes stern and mercurial after her unrequited love interest is killed by a fascist gang; the elder sons, Vincenzino and Mario, spend time as prisoners of war, which costs Mario his life and leads Vincenzino to fall into a loveless marriage; and Raffaella, the youngest daughter, joins the partisans before marrying her ex-fascist cousin. Ginzburg’s efficient, lyrical prose and ear for dialogue make for an expansive and beautifully rendered study of individuals and community in wartime. With this latest resurrected masterpiece, the late author’s work continues to prove irresistible and relevant. (May)