It’s summer in Turin in the 1930’s and 16 year old Ginia is ready for adventure. Parentless, she works in a dressmakers, loves to laugh and dance and lives with her older brother, taking care of him and their apartment.
But then she is befriended by Amelia an artists model, and over the summer becomes involved with her older bohemian set that includes Guido and love!
The cover blurb in my Penguin copy says that ‘It’s the start of a desperate love affair, charged with false hope and overwhelming passion’, which makes it all sound rather melodramatic; when the clever thing about The Beautiful Summer, is that within 100 pages of very little drama Cesare Pavese has us completely believing in the confusion Ginia is going through.
She realises that this is a time for ‘self -possession’, but has no idea how to achieve it. Her naivety is on every page, her jealousy and confusion over Guido’s relationship with Amelia and other models that sit for him, her need for confirmation about their romance
‘when Ginia would have liked to ask him lots of things about Amelia, about himself, his pictures, what he did in the evenings and if he loved her, she could not screw up the courage.’
but also the happiness of being in love
‘she thought that Guido would have been up three hours already, and she smiled into the mirror and threw herself a kiss’
And then she blushes all the time and can never get used to the untidiness they live in – as they slouch around on the floor, smoking and chatting and drinking she busily tidies around them!
But Pavese is kind to Ginia, she is so out of her depth but I didn’t find her gauche behaviour either irritating or sweet, I didn’t find myself cringing or feeling embarrassed for her, more a feeling of recognition and understanding. Her parentless state is never questioned, writing during the rise of fascism, I don’t know if Pavese is using the broken family as a symbol, but there were times when I wished Ginia had a wise parent to go home to and hug.