(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Clelia Oitana returns to Turin in the dim light of a snowy January day, a few years after the end of World War II. She registers at the best hotel, answers no telephone calls, and, in solitude, savors her return to her birthplace, a major industrial city in northwest Italy. The calm ends when she looks into the hallway to see medical attendants carrying away an unconscious young woman, who, while alone, took an overdose of Veronal. Clelia later discovers that the woman is Rosetta Mola, the daughter of an established Turin family.

Clelia, the narrator, is a successful couturiere in Rome, where she works in the establishment of “Madame,” a major Italian designer. Madame has sent Clelia to Turin to prepare to open and then manage a new fashion house. The story takes place in late winter and early spring as Clelia works with an architect and construction contractors to prepare for the opening of the firm at a location on the Via Po.

Clelia, thirty-four years old, left Turin seventeen years earlier, determined to rise from her working-class background. On the first afternoon of the return, Clelia, alone, walks through her old neighborhood, which is smaller and dirtier than she remembers, and realizes that nothing remains there for her but memories. That evening she goes to a ball with Morelli, a friend who provides entree into the fashionable world of Turin’s salons, a world inhabited by the smart set that she wistfully envied as a working...

(The entire section is 462 words.)