A murderous account of an unhappy marriage.
A woman kills her husband. “I shot him between the eyes,” she says. Ginzburg’s (Family Lexicon, 2017, etc.) latest novel to appear in English begins and ends with this unvarnished statement. In between is the plainspoken account of an unremarkable, if unhappy, marriage. When the unnamed narrator meets Alberto, she is 26, and he is much older. “I didn’t really like him,” she says, “and the only reason I was pleased to have him come and call on me was that he looked at me with such…sparkling eyes.” They begin to see each other almost every day: Alberto brings her chocolates and books, and they go on walks and to the theater. Eventually, Alberto confesses that he is in love with another woman—a married woman—but still, he and the narrator are married. “Before we were married,” she explains, “Alberto enjoyed my company even if he wasn’t in love with me….He sketched my face in his notebook and listened to what I had to say.” After they’re married, the sketches stop, and they find less and less to say to one other. Soon Alberto starts going on trips, and he’s plainly lying about the reason for them. Eventually, the narrator shoots him. Ginzburg, it’s clear, is a master of the deceptively simple plot. From the beginning, you know how this story will end. Likewise, her prose seems at first to be arid, nearly parched. To say that she’s understated is itself a serious understatement. This slim, swift book—closer in length to a novella than a novel—was first published in Italy in 1947, but it feels chillingly modern in its structure, subject matter, and tone.
Haunting, spare, and utterly gorgeous, Ginzburg’s novel is a classic of the wife-murders-husband variety.