Anna, a plump, pale girl of fourteen, the younger girl in her family. On the day her father dies, she meets Giuma, the boy across the street. Although she ostensibly prefers playing with her girlfriends, she is drawn to this social superior and begins to play with him, or rather becomes the object of his imaginative play, every day. He talks to her, tells her endless fascinating stories, and even ties her to a tree. In later years, she enjoys hearing him recite poems by Eugenio Montale and eating ice cream with him at the Paris café. They imagine themselves part of the revolution, shooting and escaping over rooftops. At the age of sixteen, Anna finds herself pregnant, but Giuma refuses to marry her because of her youth and the war. Instead, he gives her one thousand lire, which he has saved to buy a boat, for an abortion. Frightened, she tells her plight to Cenzo Rena, an old family friend, who offers to keep her secret and marry her. Anna thus becomes the wife of the savior of the southern village of Borgo San Costanzo, where she gives birth to a daughter and gradually becomes sympathetic to the hard life of the peasants. She supports her husband’s revolutionary activities and nurses him through a life-threatening illness. After he finally gives his life for the peasants, she, like her friends and family members, faces the future at the end of the war with courage and hope.
Cenzo Rena (CHIHN-zoh RAY-nah), a country gentleman, world traveler, and friend of Anna’s father. A tall, big man with a hairy face and graying mustache, he is almost forty-eight at the time he marries Anna. A practical and generous man, he lives in an old family home high on a hill above a peasant village in southern Italy. The peasant men seek his company and advice as a revered friend and protector. He works for the...
(The entire section is 786 words.)