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The Woman of Rome (Italia) Paperback – 21 Oct 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press; New edition edition (21 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883642809
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883642808
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A profoundly realistic and compassionate story which continually transcends its subject; which is in effect the story of modern Italy." -- "The Atlantic Monthly

From the Inside Flap

THE GLITTER AND CYNICISM of Rome under Mussolini provide the background of what is probably Alberto Moravia's best and best-known novel -- "The Woman of Rome. It's the story of Adriana, a simple girl with no fortune but her beauty who models naked for a painter, accepts gifts from men, and could never quite identify the moment when she traded her private dream of home and children for the life of a prostitute.
One of the very few novels of the twentieth century which can be ranked with the work of Dostoevsky, "The Woman of Rome also tells the stories of the tortured university student Giacomo, a failed revolutionary who refuses to admit his love for Adriana; of the sinister figure of Astarita, the Secret Police officer obsessed with Adriana; and of the coarse and brutal criminal Sonzogno, who treats Adriana as his private property. Within this story of passion and betrayal, Moravia calmly strips away the pride and arrogance hiding the corrupt heart of Italian Fascism.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book represents a coming together of the Dostoevski/existentialist tradition and that of the great nineteenth century novelists. One is initially put off by the author's declaration in the preface that he is putting his intellectual's mind into the 'sort of woman' who would be unable to think in such a way. Hmmm ... not very nineties. One quickly learns to respect Adriana, however, for the combination of sponteneity and thought, conscience and amorality she shows in all circumstances. The background of fascist Rome is delicately hinted at; it exerts a constant pressure without ever being explicit. This is highly reminiscent of Camus' Algeria. Yet scenes such as Adriana's confession in a darkened Church on a hot Roman afternoon conjures up a Renaissance painting.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really got into the story. Amazed how intricate and sensitive the insights into the female psyche are portrayed by a male writer!
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Format: Paperback
Reading this as it is my book clubs choice for last month.

Heavy going - written in first person, which I don't like very much. Very introspective and slow.

Struggling to finish it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amor Fati in Fascist Italy 17 Jun. 2002
By Robin Friedman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Alberto Moravia was a leading mid-Twentieth Century Italian novelist and short story writer. Although his works were quickly translated into English, they were little read in the United States. Fortunately for interested readers, many of his books are now in print again and accessible, including his 1949 novel, The Woman of Rome.
This is a story of Adriana, a beautiful, poor, and uneducated young woman who begins as an artist's model at the age of 16. Although she dreams of a quiet, modest home with a loving husband and children, she becomes both a prostitute and a thief. As a prostitute, she is involved with a number of men with competing ideologies and interests including Astarita, a Fascist chief of police, Giacomo, a student revolutionary against the Fascists and Sozmogo, a criminal and a thug.
The story is told in the first person. Adriana is always on stage and the character of highest interest. The reader gets to know her well. The book is told in a linear, easy-to-follow style which builds to a large cresendo, for me, at the end of the first part. The second part of the book loses slightly in dramatic intensity and in construction.
As with any work of depth, this book functions on a number of levels which reject easy paraphrase or simple meaning. Many readers see the book as a picture of corruption in Rome while others see it more as the story of Adriana. I am more inclined to the second view. As far as I can tell, however, there is a strong spiritual theme in the book which sometimes gets too little emphasis in the pull of conflicting readings.
There are no less than four pivotal scenes in The Woman of Rome set in a church. Although the book is replete with sex, violence and raw brutality, it is also highly internalized. Many of its most effective moments are those in which Adriana relects (in church or out) on her life and on the course it has taken.
The German philosopher Frederich Nietxche (Adriana does not mention and would not have known of him) used the phrase "amor fati" to describe the wise person's attitude towards life. The phrase means loving one's destiny or, to use another related Nietschean phrase, "becoming who one is". The specific facts of one's life may be determined by circumstance. What is not determined is one's attitude. A person can understand his or her life and accept it joyfully, regardless of its state. It is in the acceptance and understanding that choice resides and that gives life its value and dignity.
The novel shows the attempt of a poor, but intelligent woman to find "amor fati" and to become who she is. She struggles to accept her nature and her being as a prostitute. Many of Adriana's reflections in the church are quite explicit and insightful. Adriana, alas, is no more successful than are most people in staying with her insight into herself. That, in my opinion, is the tragedy of the story which leads to the downfall of the men involved with Adriana.
The spiritual tone of the book goes well beyond Nietsche. Together with the theme of amor fati, there is a religiosity that emphasises, in the context of Western theology, God as merciful and as all-forgiving rather than God as a moralizer or judge. This God -- or self-understanding is open to all regardless of creed or station. The religion that seems to be espoused in the book recognizes the sinful, fallen nature of people and their frequent inability to change. It seems to suggest the possiblity of atonement and forgiveness offered to everyone by a turning of the heart, even if, perhaps, behavior cannot be changed. It is a powerful picture of a God of mercy and forgiveness who holds the possiblity of love out to all.
This is a first-rate or nearly first-rate Twentieth Century novel.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It made me think about life in a new way. 31 Oct. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
It surprises me when I read the previous two reviews. On the contrary, I think this book is one of Moravia's best. The first time I read it, I was stunned, feeling very uncomfortable, because, with his characteristic style clear view about life, a view without any illusion, Moravia pushed me to think about life in a new way.
It is not just a usual romantic story of a girl of humble background with a boy from a wealthy family. It is a story of a cruel, inhumane wolrd, its corruptive forces, its lack of meaning and reason, and the people who lived in it, some strived for a meaning, some gave up, some became part of the corruptive force...
Yes, it is told through the girl with some clarity of understanding of what happenned to her that may have shamed some people who have got the best education in the world. But, please, what does education have to do with wisdom. I know the intelligence of Adriana has invited criticism, but I would rather believe it.
That being said, I love this book. Like most of Moravia's books, love is a question, not a ready, easy answer to the central question of our existence - the meaning of life. Every charactor in the novel brings his/her individual history and existence, in particular, the sutdent and the lover of Adriana, Mino, deserves much respect, understanding, sympathy and affection.
Ever since I found the book in the bookstore and bought it home, I return to it from time to time, for the enjoyment of Mr. Moravia's wonderful language, for more understanding, and for people who lived in the book.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our fragile human nature 28 Oct. 2002
By C. Kevin Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
Moravia's elegant novel takes the familiar theme of unfulfilled dreams and invests it with quiet strength and descriptive authenticity. Months after reading "Woman in Rome," it is the voice of Adriana, the woman of the title, that lingers in my memory. By telling in the 1st person his story of a young woman whose beauty, poverty, passivity and kindness lead her to prostitution and abandonment, the author shows us how such a fall from hope and grace is a gradual, imperceptible process, one day after the next. Moravia writes in a deceptively simple style that keeps the reader close to his heroine's actions, so that her losses become our own. Near the end of the novel there is an astonishing paragraph, in which the narrator imagines herself drowning. This heartbreaking paragraph encapsulates the downward pull of the entire book, the longing for oblivion in the face of lost dreams. It is too long to quote in full, but here are some excerpts. (Note, too, the beautiful translation.)
"I obeyed and he undressed in the dark and got into bed beside me. I turned toward him to embrace him, but he pushed me away wordlessly and curled himself up on the edge of the bed with his back to me. This gesture filled me with bitterness and I, too, hunched myself up, waiting for sleep with a widowed spirit. But I began to think about the sea again and was overcome by the longing to drown myself. I imagined it would only be a moment's suffering, and then my lifeless body would float from wave to wave beneath the sky for ages. [...] At last I would sink to the bottom, would be dragged head downward toward some icy blue current that would carry me along the sea for months and years among submarine rocks, fish, and seaweed, and floods of limpid seawater would wash my forehead, my breast, my belly, my legs, slowly wearing away my flesh, smoothing and refining me continually. And at last some wave, someday, would cast me up on some beach, nothing but a handful of fragile, white bones [...] a little heap of bones, without human shape, among the clean stones of a shore."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, fate and the false hope of beauty 9 Oct. 2012
By Digital Rights - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alberto Moravia was a prolific post WWII Italian writer. Collectively his books present one man's version of the essence of Italy as it recovers economically and rebuilds its psyche after the Mussolini era, war and the near civil war that was Italy at mid century. Here he boldly presents a first person narrative of a young, attractive woman of little means in late 1930's Rome.

Boldly in that this is pre-"Venus and Mars" understanding of the sexes and this is Italy which even in modern day it does not enjoy a progressive reputation regarding gender equality. So for a man of that era and that culture to take on the voice and mind of a young woman and give her life and credibility to a reader is bold and successful. He captures Adriana's decline from innocence but equally bestows her with a realistic stoicism rather than bitterness.

"If I had been less blinded and inexperienced, I would have reflected that only calculated deceit can create such a sense of perfection, and that real sincerity give a picture of many faults.." she observes and reflects on the deceit of her first boyfriend.

Adriana is living with her mother. The father passed away years ago. The mother is bitter and sees their only means of material attainment through exploiting Adriana's beauty; hoping that modeling (naked) for painters may lead to other introductions, maybe acting or a leg up into a higher social strata for introductions and hopefully marriage. Adriana is simple, perhaps innocent and naive. Unfortunately modeling leads to the wrong opportunities which largely nullifies her ideals of middle class happiness.

"I then understood that my anguish was caused, not by what I was doing, but more profoundly by the bare fact of being alive, which was neither good nor evil but only painful and without meaning". It's a profound observation that accepts fate and destiny over freewill.

The plot line is interesting but hardly the heart of the story. That lies largely with Moravia's writing. Countless times using Adriana's thoughts or dialogue between she and her suitors we receive golden nuggets of life reflected. Of one suitor: "He seemed to ascribe the utmost importance to intelligence, by which he meant cleverness. And in dividing humankind into two groups - those who were clever and those where were not - he always tried to put himself in the first category."

One may argue that Moravia's female narrator is not authentic. That he could not possibly get into her mind and drive the actions. One might say her choices of lovers and those she hated are inconsistent or that she's too cliche falling for the wrong men. My own view is that she is authentic but perhaps others will have to decide it it's unique or common.

But in contrast Moravia's portrait of men and their thoughts and actions (largely bad) are illuminating, truthful, certainly authentic and perhaps that was really his goal.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Moravia, you'll like it 31 Aug. 2004
By Pere V. -. INTERNET - Published on
Format: Paperback
Good novel. You must like Moravia, and you should not mind about happy ends. I enjoyed it, and I will remember it, so I'm doubting between 4 or 5 stars.
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