Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
A Coin in Nine Hands is a novel about a social group and about a period, the reign of Benito Mussolini in 1933. Marguerite Yourcenar uses the device of the circulating ten-lira coin to link her diverse characters, but they are also linked by the period and by the effect Mussolini had on each of them. The first three characters whom the reader encounters are all in search of some illusion that will enable them to survive. For example, Paolo Farina can still think of himself as a desirable man when the Roman prostitute, Lina Chiari, goes to bed with him. Lina can face the world with the help of cosmetics she purchases from Giulio. Giulio’s difficulties are more complex—his wife is a shrew, his daughter’s husband, Carlo, is in jail, and his daughter, Vanna, and her sick child live with Giulio—and his consoling illusion is the Catholic church. The relationships between these people are primarily commercial rather than human; they are selling and buying illusions.
Rosalia di Credo’s story is somewhat different; her difficulty is her inability to recover or return to the family home, Gemera, in Sicily. Nevertheless, while Rosalia idealizes that home, its description and history suggest that it is merely another comforting illusion. Not only is Gemera decayed and decrepit, but its springs have dried up as well. In addition, Rosalia was driven from the decaying mansion by the enraged villagers, who think that her father is a demon. Rosalia...
(The entire section is 1298 words.)
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