Reviews of Nobel Prize winner | Comments on all Shakespeare's plays | Poetry reviews | Multiple reviews of same author | Haiti books |


By Grazia Deledda
Translated from the Italian by Mary G. Steegmann
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927
239 pages

Bob Corbett
December 2014


The novel is set in a small Sardinian hill side village, Aar, which is very remote. The whole action is two days and concerns two main characters, the mother and her son, the local priest. She is Maria Maddalena and is illiterate.

In truth the village is quite ugly but to Maria “. . . (it) seems to her the most beautiful in all the world, because her Paul was its savior and its king.”


The mother, Mary Maddalena grew up in this small village in Sardinia. Now her only child, Paul, has become a priest and has been assigned to this village. Mary sees this as the rest of their lives; to be together here and him to become the best priest ever.

As the novel open Paul has been in the village for 7 years, is very well liked and respected and has put the village back onto the track of being a rather successful Catholic group after having had an older priest who wasn’t very serious about his work.

However, Mary discovers that is appears Fr. Paul is either involved or getting involved with a young woman in the village. Agnes is the daughter of a former rich man in the area. She lives in a manor house with servants and some wealth. Paul is seemingly totally entranced by her.

His mother thinks back to their triumphal arrival 7 years earlier; the joy of the people, the fireworks, the hope. Now she realizes that everything is in peril. Her preoccupation is that “. . . her, Paul, was its (the village’s) savior and its king.”

Mary is deeply distressed and even dreams of a visit from the old priest who wants his parish back and who has embraced the world as the gift of a good God, and not the ideal of heaven.

On his side Paul believes he is really in love with Agnes. He seems to think the two of them will run away and live a “normal” life, but he does tell his mother about her and how much he loves her. Needless to say, she is simply shocked and begins to work to convince him that this is simply madness and a momentary distraction.

While the action of the novel is only two days long, both Paul and his mother do a good deal of remembering and recounting the past, so the reader learns a great deal about their history and their lives in the village.

Also throughout there are captivating details of the lives of these people living in a remote region filled with superstition, following an ancient pattern of life, little touched by changing times and technology.

The most difficult part to fathom for me was that after developing this relationship with Agnes, albeit, only a short time ago, Paul is immediately and seemingly honestly persuaded by his mother in one single conversation, that this is an infatuation and a disaster to Paul and that he must immediately end the “affair.”

However, Agnes isn’t as easy to convince or change as Paul would wish and she threatens to denounce him from his own altar at the Sunday mass the second day of the story.

The surprise ending is quite shocking, yet not too farfetched.

I found this to be a gripping and beautifully written novel. The plot line seems to move a bit faster than I could fully imagine, but the details of the village and people are extraordinary, and even the plot it quite believable, even if I think it might have needed more time than the two days duration.

The author is able to paint the picture of the village with great success and even bring the minor characters to life in a vivid manner. The plot, while, again, for me a bit cramped with the two day time period, deals with a very believable situation and author, Grazia Deledda, creates a very believable and human and dynamic plot.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett