From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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)
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*Starred Review* Tuck resurrects the life, times, and career of Elsa Morante, an important writer in post–World War II Italy, author of four novels: House of Liars (1948), Arturo’s Island (1957), History (1974), and Aracoeli (1982). Morante was a major participant in Italy’s cultural flowering of the postwar era. She knew other famous Italian writers (and was married to one, Alberto Moravia), as well as many famous filmmakers, including Pier Paolo Pasolini and Luchino Visconti. Born in Rome into a family of modest means, Morante had an early life that boasted only a small degree of material comfort; she moved away from home to support herself at a far younger age than was socially accepted at the time. During World War II, she and Moravia found it necessary to flee Rome and hide from the Fascists in a mountain hut. Morante experienced many love affairs over the years, though only fleeting happiness was gained from each one; but all the while, she was devoting herself to writing and to drawing richness from her wide exposure to life. Written with a charming personal touch (Tuck herself has spent considerable time in Rome) that warms the narrative to a fine glow, this is a vital biography bringing to American audiences a writer most will have previously known little about. See the Story behind the Story for more information on Tuck and the writing of this book. --Brad Hooper