cover image Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante

Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante

Lily Tuck, . . HarperCollins, $25.95 (263pp) ISBN 978-0-06-147256-5

A National Book Award–winning novelist applies her skills to nonfiction

Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante Lily Tuck . HarperCollins , $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-147256-5

Novelist Elsa Morante and the city she symbolized come alive in this warm, sprightly literary biography. Novelist Tuck (The News from Paraguay ) surveys Morante’s life: her troubled relationship with an unstable mother; her salad days writing magazine pieces along with having to occasionally resort to prostitution to make a living; World War II, when she and husband, Alberto Moravia, both half-Jewish, hid out from Fascist persecution in a mountain village; her postwar dolce vita immersed in friendships, affairs and dinner-table debates with Rome’s glitterati. Morante emerges as a complex, vibrant character—difficult, mercurial and fiercely (often rudely) devoted to truth-telling, but also kindhearted and charismatic. Tuck ties the biographical details—and analyses of her subject’s dreams and handwriting—to sympathetic but critical analyses of Morante’s protean works, which include the hothouse melodrama of House of Liars , the darkly beguiling Huckleberry Finn fable of Arturo’s Island and the pitiless meditation on force and corruption of her bestselling History . Tuck sets the life in a colorful evocation of Morante’s milieu, enlivened by her own youthful reminiscences of Italy’s postwar film scene, that makes the book a love letter to Rome as well as to her subject. Photos. (July 29)