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Sunday, July 1, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Books Briefly

Books Briefly

``The Road to the City''

by Natalia Ginzburg

translated by Frances Frenaye

Arcade, $16.95

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These two novellas by one of Italy's most respected writers were originally published in the 1940s but only recently translated into English. They detail the bleak plights of two women who are emotionally torn between their true feelings and their marital situations.

In the title novella, ``The Road to the City,'' a teen-age village girl named Delia steals away to the city at every opportunity. She becomes involved with a rich and obnoxious medical student, but secretly loves Nini, an old friend - though she and Nini conceal their feelings for each other. When Delia becomes pregnant, she is sent away to hide at her aunt's house until the families can arrange a marriage. As she slowly accepts her lost independence, Delia painfully comes to terms with her impending motherhood - though by accepting responsibility, she is forced to abandon her real love.

``The Dry Heart'' opens with the heroine shooting her husband between the eyes. She calmly reveals that Alberto never loved her and had carried on an affair with a married woman for years. In spite of that, she had married him, hoping to change his habits. A daughter is born, but she dies of meningitis, leaving the mother distraught, remorseful and angry. Ginzburg paints a poignant, compelling and intimate portrait of this woman's inner turmoil.

Marilyn Stablein

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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