Spelling isn’t my strong suit: the author from Ferrara is Georgio Bassani. Title of his work correct: The Garden of the Fitzi-Continis. Other wonderful writers I’ve encountered in Italy sometimes have nothing to do with Italy. Their books sit on the crowded shelves of my friend Patricia Glee Smith. For instance, Mary Gaskell or Mrs. Gaskell as she was called mid-19th century, the author of Cranford, North and South, and Mary Barton. Her novels contrast middle-class southern England with the mill workers and owners of the northland. Charles Dickens published her and she became an instant success.
Wife of a clergyman who moved from the south to the north to work with mill people, she captures the degredation, pathos, struggle for better working conditions of mill workers, whose lives are enmeshed in the stern, grasping rectitude of the owners. It’s her power to depict interiors and landscapes, hovels and moors, crowded streets and workers covered in cotton dust, the frequent deaths, families left destitute, help of neighbors with little themselves, and usually one or two shining angels of mercy. Light and dark, damp and sun, strange twists of fate and law–I’d rank her right up there with Dickens and Dostoevsky.
Then, if you don’t have time to enter her large-hearted works on paper, find the BBC productions of Cranford or North & South. Cranford is not set in the mill country, but its portraits of a slew of small town folk coupled with the grand family of the manor are truly brilliant.
More about my artist friend Pat Smith in the next blog.