Books by Dacia Maraini

DARKNESS by Dacia Maraini
Released: Oct. 15, 2002

"Simple, sobering riffs of whodunit stuff, with cumulative accents on the downbeat."
A dozen grim vignettes show the brutish side of Italian life, culled from newspaper crime reports and turned into the caseload of sharp-witted but gentle police commissioner Adele Sofia by award-winning feminist writer Maraini. The first involves a boy abducted, raped, and strangled by a stranger who lured him from his house by making himself seem like a pigeon in the boy's mind; later, the killer turns out to be a social worker already involved in the murder investigation. A mentally challenged girl entrusted to a clinic by her last living relative, her ailing grandfather, is dead within months; the investigation reveals that two male clinic workers repeatedly raped her at bath time, then kept her sedated until she died, while the pompous head of the clinic and a harried co-worker suspected nothing. An 11-year-old boy reports his father for rape, but an investigation proves inconclusive; three years later the boy's little brother is dead and fingers are being pointed at both the boy and his father. The feuding family's conflicting testimony confuses everyone, and only Commissioner Sofia keeps her wits about her, aided by sacks of her favorite licorice drops. Finally, a young woman is tortured and murdered while on a trip to see the pope, and a female reporter gets on the case with such a vengeance that she discovers clues that lead to the arrest of a well-spoken, mild-mannered professional with a theory that there's a little of the murderer in everyone. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

The Silent Dutchess ($19.95; Nov. 21; 264 pp.; 1-55861-194-0): This prizewinning 1990 novel by one of Italy's foremost writers (Voices, 1997, etc.) deftly juggles a strong feminist statement with a beautifully specific re-creation of 18th-century Sicily. The protagonist, Marianna Ucrça, born into a wealthy aristocratic family, is stricken deaf and dumb following a sexual assault suffered in early childhood, and thereafter pronounced helpless by the paternalistic culture incarnated in her powerful, loving, and condescending father. Marianna's sedulous cultivation of her unafflicted other senses, and gradual realization of the world of empowerment that reading and writing offer to her, are searchingly explored in a carefully paced story of intellectual and moral growth—a story that's as much a charming fairy tale as an impeccably realistic chronicle of one woman's painstaking ascension to self-expression and independence. Read full book review >
VOICES by Dacia Maraini
Released: May 1, 1997

Quite a jolt for Roman radio journalist Michela Canova's new series on unsolved crimes against women—her reclusive neighbor, Angela Bari, has just been stabbed to death. With shock and shame, Michela realizes she hardly knew Angela, whose name she has to find out from the doorkeeper. Was she an heiress, a model, an aspiring actress, or (as a prostitute hesitantly informs her) a high-class working girl? And was she killed by her breathlessly self-involved lover, her envious sister, or the alleged pimp who's been hanging around her apartment? Or is the culprit (as a consultant at the radio station suggests) the ingrained misogyny of a violent male society, or perhaps the viciousness of human nature in general? Since Maraini (The Silent Duchess, etc., not reviewed) is a novelist of considerable ambitions, and since her estimable heroine, after all, is researching a story on unsolved mysteries, there's no guarantee that she'll ever come up with a solution to this one. The only certainty is that the skein of voices Michela captures in her tape-recorded interviews will go on echoing long after she's taken off the story. ``The fact that she has been so brutally torn apart suddenly seems like something that has been done to me,'' Michela reflects early on. Maraini shines in showing how Michela, in trying to capture a sense of her mysterious dead neighbor, is struggling to define herself as well. Read full book review >