In a seventh novel--as exquisitely styled as her previous efforts (Joanna, 1991, etc.)--Umbria-based St. Aubin de Ter†n uses her knowledge of rural Italy to evoke poignant images of tradition and a world in transition, where the love of a mangled war veteran for a fickle, long-lost fiancÇe burns brightly if secretly through the years. For the inhabitants of the ancient village where Alessandro Mezzanotte was born, the boundaries of the familiar ended at the edge of town, and anyone like him--who looked beyond for love and wife--was courting disaster. His infatuation with Valentina, gypsy daughter of a traveling circus owner, prompted frequent train trips just to spend a few hours with her, until he was drafted into Mussolini's army. An accident left him one-armed, horribly scarred, and blind, but he never lost hope that Valentina might return, even after she ran from him upon first seeing his condition in the hospital. Back in his village Mezzanotte kept to himself for 40 years, roaming the streets endlessly but befriending no one. Having outlived his entire family, he relies on the draftees sent by the state to be his companions; when Stefano, a troubled soldier whose mother escaped his father's tyranny by sleeping herself to death, comes to take his turn, his arrival coincides with the reappearance of the circus for the first time since the war. Mezzanotte abruptly halts his self-imposed isolation, telling Stefano about his life, and in response his listener discovers his own reason to live, so that when the old man dies the young man can carry on. A vivid, at times stunning depiction of Umbrian village life past and present--and a first-rate portrayal of the heart's yearning and the vitality of love.