Book Review: The Road to the City by Natalia Ginzburg

Delia is a teenager like many. Like we grow up to believe teenager girls are. Restless. Vane. Rebellious. Delia is 17, is one of many kids in a big family in a tiny town in Italy. Her sister left home at 17, married a sugar-daddy and moved to the City where she gets to wear fancy clothes and dine at nice places. The clothes that Delia dreams about wearing and the places she’d love to be seen at. Truth, her sister’s life isn’t perfect, and she is always exhausted or bored with little kids at home and lovers who won’t linger for long. But surely, Delia’s life could be so much better. She’d live that life much better. So, Delia tries to escape the poverty of today, her nagging mother and her neglecting father by day-dreaming all the way to the nearest city. It’s a long walk she usually takes with her older brother and cousin, with whom she has grown up. She sits at cafés and plans for the life she should lead.

When Nini gets a job in a factory and moves to the city (to live with an older woman), Delia is finally intrigued by him and starts hanging around him before or after work. But she doesn’t quite know how she feels about Nini, and she has already got the attention of Giuglio, a well-off medical student, an affair that promises a life of luxury in the city, a life she craves desperately.

As it is to be expected with a story penned by Ginzburg, whatever path that Delia ends up choosing, is one filled with pain and disappointment.

A story about women’s dreams and desires and societal pressure. About the dreams we dream when we are young, and how we should definitely approach them cautiously. They can be quite bitter if they do come true.

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