A social epic of 19th century Sardinia where the evocation of the time, the land and the customs is stronger than the characterization of people who could be any nation's whitewashed ancestors, with their trials, weddings and birthings and their ancient wisdom that life, somehow, comes out of the terrible sorrows of death. The pivotal figure of this five-part family saga is Angelo Uras, whose passage from the peasant class to the insular ""gentry"" begins with the reading of the will of his humanist-liberal benefactor -- considered a ""heretic"" by the Church, a ""revolutionary"" by the explorative Piedmontese government. Angelo is the true son of his adoptive father who through his altruistic efforts to save the town's forests and its integrity becomes both ""saint"" and ""magician"" to his people -- as well as the richest man in town, the mayor, husband to the most genuinely aristocratic snob around -- Horatio Alger all"" Italiana. From start to finish, the focus is on the shared institutions and watermarks of bourgeois life and Dessi's narrative development is just dramatic enough to strike a common nerve when, say, Angelo's first child-wife hemorrhages to death after her delivery. Dessi won a Premio Strega and comparison to Lampedusa's The Leopard in Italy.