Book Review: Valentino and Sagittarius

I’m a big fan of Natalia Ginzburg. I love her sad stories, usually about hardship, heartbreak and ordinary lives of struggling families in small towns in Italy of the 1950s. Female characters are always center-stage, flawed, conflicted and yet lovable.

This is a collection of two novellas. In VALENTINO, a struggling family in a small town has placed all their hopes on their son Valentino, neglecting their two daughters. Their elder daughter has grown resentful and avoids all family relations, and the youngest, feels disappointed that her family assumes she will never marry and expect her to financially support them and take care of them forever. But what happens when Valentino neglects his studies and decides to marry an ugly older but rich woman?

In SAGITTARIUS, an overbearing woman moves from her village into a larger town and brings her married but sickly daughter with her. Like Valentino’s family, she had placed all her hopes in her eldest, sure she’d marry into a rich family and uplift them all. But she ends up marrying a poor Jewish doctor and the woman turns all her energy into building herself a life in a new town, possibly starting a new business enterprise. Her life takes a surprising turn once she meets an elegant and chatty lady at the hair salon and pegs her future to hers. But will it work out?

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