Have you ever started reading a biography of someone that not only you did you know nothing about but you had not even heard the subject's name before?
I found myself in this reading situation recently and was pleasantly surprised about how captivating it can be to discover a life unfolding.
Woman of Rome by Lily Tuck explores the life of Italian Writer Elsa Morante and the history of her time as she was writing during WWII. Tuck is the author of the National Book Award winning novel, The News from Paraguay. Having thoroughly researched Morante's personal and professional life, Tuck offers the reader an intimate glimpse into the writer's thought process and emotional state during heightened moments. I was initially drawn to this book merely from the book jacket which features a glamorous yet mysterious portrait of Morante. Best known for her novels History (1974), Arturo's Island (1957), and House of Liars (1948), Morante was a well-known literary figure in Italy and Tuck's characterization intrigued me to want to read each of Morante's novels as well as Tuck's literary works.
"All my thoughts, like flags beating against the wind, turned back to the burning season behind me which had cut short my childhood and transformed my destiny. Even today, in a sense, I live in that childhood summer around which my spirit wheels and beats carelessly, like an insect around a dazzling lamp." (House of Liars)Morante was a woman struggling to establish her own identity. A tumultuous marriage to Italian Writer Alberto Moravia created a continual competition to be recognized solely for her own work. She surrounded herself with artists, poets, writers, and creative contemporaries. Her work was often a product of her dreams which she documented regularly in journals. Tuck's vast knowledge of Italian language, culture and customs is translated into a beautiful telling of the behind-the-scenes life of Morante the writer as well as Morante the woman.