cover image The Seamstress of Sardinia

The Seamstress of Sardinia

Bianca Pitzorno, trans. from the Italian by Brigid Maher. HarperPerennial, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-327169-2

Pitzorno’s sparkling English-language debut follows a poor Sardinian orphan girl’s coming-of-age as she becomes a seamstress, opera lover, and independent young woman. At five, in 1900, the unnamed narrator loses her parents in a cholera epidemic. She’s taken in by her grandmother, Nonna, a seamstress who teaches her to sew. By age seven, the girl is helping with the work, and well-to-do brides teach her to read and offer her novels, periodicals, and opera libretti in exchange for sewing their trousseaux and layettes. Nonna dies when the narrator is 16, and she manages to sidestep the pitfalls awaiting young women of the lower classes thanks to her sewing skills and literacy. Though finding work is sometimes a struggle, she survives the lean times with her dignity intact and catches operas from the nosebleed seats. Independent women—including a bicycle-riding American journalist and the beneficent, globe-trotting Marchesina Ester—provide moral and financial support. A tantalizing suitor appears, but the narrator’s problems are resolved more through courage, self-sacrifice, and honesty than through love or money. Minutely described period clothing and memorable characters conveyed via Maher’s seamless translation add to the charm. This sumptuous costume drama has a great deal of heart. Agent: David Forrer, InkWell Management. (Dec.)