The Silent Duchess’s Youngest Child

This novel is incredibly, incredibly complex. So many notes. Sometimes self gets so enraged — especially at the marriage of the 13-year-old to her uncle.

In the end, the Duchess develops affection for her husband, who she refers to throughout as “uncle husband.” He is an ineffably diffident man, who several years into the marriage begins spending longer periods of time in Palermo (Self thinks: Mistress!)

Anyhoo, the Duchess spends the years between 14 and 30 having babies. The last child, born when she is 30, is a sickly boy named Signoretto. She feeds him by hand, “little pizzas filled with minced chicken, pasta made with egg-yolk and cheese, and egg-flip with orange juice: everything that . . . ‘makes good red blood.’ “

p. 74:

Signoretto got no fatter, but he grew taller and taller, acquiring the neck of a stork and two small thin arms like a monkey’s, which were openly ridiculed by his brother. At two he was taller than Agata’s three-year-old. Although he did not gain any weight, he shot up like a plant in search of the sun. Neither his hair nor his teeth came through. His head was like a wooden ball and she covered it with embroidered bonnets turned up and puffed out at the edges.

The Silent Duchess, by Dacia Maraini, translated from the Italian by Dick Kitto and Elspeth Spottiswood

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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