“A Woman” by Sibilla Aleramo

Thanks to Penguin Press UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Hmmm…how does one summarise a book such as this? I guess by saying it is VERY Italian. The book is an autobiographical account of the life of the Italian writer Sibilla Aleramo and follows the early part of her life and career at the beginning of the 20th century.
If you’ve read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels I don’t think you could fail to notice that Ferrante’s writing style was clearly influenced by Aleramo. The book had quite a similar “voice” and a dreamy quality often found in works by Italian writers. I saw a lot of similarities between Sibilla and the character of Lenu from the Neapolitan novels and am curious as to whether aspects of her character were directly inspired by Aleramo.

It’s a very character driven account and if you need breakneck action then this definitely isn’t the book for you. As well as being a reflection on early 20th century feminism and motherhood, the book also explores some deep issues including sexual and domestic violence.

What stuck out in particular for me was how startlingly modern this book was considering the time in which it was written. Aleramo was clearly a remarkable woman, forced to make some incredibly tough choices under the societal restrictions in which she lived. Despite the gulf of time which separates modern readers from Aleramo, many of her experiences will resonate with modern women today.

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