(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The saying goes that, “History is written by the victors.” In this novel, however, Morante offers a history that focuses on the powerless, whose lives are tangled in the web of world events. The main characters have no hand in shaping the destructive political agendas of their country, but each deals with their terrifying consequences. Roman Jews whom Ida knows by name are killed because of the Fascists’ alliance with Hitler. Once the Allies have won the war, Ida and Useppe no longer starve. Gunther’s rape of Ida is also shown as another example of history’s effect on the individual; it was only because of larger world events that the young German was in Italy at all.

Morante’s use of historical circumstances and layers of documentary detail give this work a verisimilitude. By juxtaposing the words “A Novel” and “History,” however, she calls into question any narrative, including hers, that stamps itself as truth. Moreover, she adds a nearly omniscient narrator and touches of Magical Realism to the narration of gritty everyday events.

The book is also Morante’s platform from which to offer her mix of Christian and Marxist ideologies. Useppe’s birth by a father of unknown origin, his supernatural powers, his blanket ability to love and generate happiness, and his several falls before his early death show him as a Christ figure. His otherworldly abilities—his ability to communicate with animals and understand the...

(The entire section is 591 words.)