Clelia Oitana (kleh-lee-ah oh-ih-TAH-nah), the narrator, a successful couturiere, who moves from Rome to Turin, Italy, to open a fashion house. Clelia, who had escaped from the Turin working-class quarter seventeen years before, returns, at the age of thirty-four, as an attractive, experienced woman. She had been driven by ambition to get ahead but is now aware that the life she has created is largely empty. Clelia moves among the elite young people of postwar Turin and finds them to lead frivolous, meaningless lives, escaping from boredom by engaging in slumming expeditions and vicious gossip about one another. Clelia is not very happy with her life, but her work, at least, brings her satisfaction. Fulfilling work is something that her friends do not have.
Rosetta Mola, the twenty-three-year-old daughter of a rich, proper Turin family. Rosetta, a serious, naïve woman, is fed up with the meaningless existence of her social group and yet unable to find an alternative. She attempts suicide the night Clelia returns to Turin. Clelia meets her and realizes that she is in trouble but has no answer to Rosetta’s fundamental question: When life and love teach you who you are, as Clelia has assured her it would, what do you do with what you have learned? The book closes with Rosetta’s death by suicide.
(The entire section is 598 words.)