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The City and the House


The city is Rome, the hub of Italian life and culture. The house is Le Margherite, a home where the sprawling cast of The City and the House is welcome. At the center of this lush epistolary novel is Lucrezia, mother of five and lover of many. Among her lovers—and perhaps the father of one of her children—is Giuseppe. After the sale of Le Margherite, the characters wander aimlessly as if in search of a lost paradise.

What was once rooted, local, and specific has become general and common, a matter of strangers and of pointless arrivals and departures. And at the edge of the novel are people no longer able to form any sustained or sustaining relationships. Here, once again, Ginzburg pulls us through a thrilling and true exploration of the disintegration of family in modern society. She handles a host of characters with a deft touch and her typical impressionist hand, and offers a story full of humanity, passion, and keen perception.


"'The City and the House' is a fine book, subtle and shrewd." —LA Times

"A brief, deft epistolary novel . . . she etches a picture of the bonds that are cast between us, bonds that prove surprisingly tough for seeming so fragile. A writer of understated mastery who deserves an American following." —Kirkus Reviews

"The city is Rome; the house, Le Margherite, a villa in the country outside Rome. Ginzburg's novel consists of a series of letters mainly between Giuseppe, a widowed writer living in Rome; Lucrezia, his ex-lover, who lives at Le Margherite with her husband Piero and their children; Giuseppe's son, Alberico, a homosexual filmmaker; Giuseppe's brother Ferruccio, a professor of biology at Princeton; his wife Anne Marie, also a biologist at Princeton; and Anne Marie's daughter Chantal. In the first letter, Giuseppe discusses his decision to move to America: "I am very happy to be leaving. . . . I am also very sorry to be leaving. I think I shall miss certain people and places I'm strongly attached to." The reader, too, will miss these crazy, mixed-up, very human, exasperating, and endearing characters. Highly recommended." —Library Journal

"This warm-hearted novel is an excellent example of the distinguished Italian novelist and essayist's art." —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Natalia Ginzburg's work

“One of the Great Italian Writers of the 20th Century.”—The New York Times

"Clarity, precision and wit mark the work of Natalia Ginzburg." — The New York Times Book Review

"Ginzburg [was] famous for her ability to conjure up a mixed emotional atmosphere, poignant yet unsentimental." —The New Yorker

"A glowing light of modern Italian literature . . . Ginzburg's magic is the utter simplicity of her prose, suddenly illuminated by one word that makes a lightning streak of a plain phrase. . . . As direct and clean as if it were carved in stone, it yet speaks thoughts of the heart." — The New York Times Book Review

"I wish more people would read the Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg." — Mary Gordon, Mother Jones

"Natalia Ginzburg must surely be one of literature's most provocative and moving writers." — Elle magazine

"Realistic, anchored by vivifying detail, crowded with wonderfully vibrant characters, luminous with deep feeling, responsiveness, and sympathy." — Publishers Weekly

"Ginzburg draws her readers into her deceptively charming essays with cascades of alluring, everyday detail, then stealthily broaches moral questions of great weight and complexity. Wryly witty, acutely observant, and unfailingly valiant, Ginzburg is a revelation, a spur, and a joy." — Booklist

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