“Back when I met you, the simple word ‘love’ provoked in me a mocking
laughter. I had been convinced that love didn’t exist. I was wrong.
What could our lifelong relationship have been if not a great love
story? Your Edith, who searched everywhere for happiness and found it
at your side.”
Reading this dedication, you will likely think these are the closing
sentiments of a romance novel. That’s exactly right. These are words from
Susanna Tamaro’s latest book, Una grande storia d’amore (“A Great
Love Story”) (Solferino 2020, 17 euro).
The protagonist Patrizia (who has chosen to call herself Edith) writes this
in a letter to Andrea, the man she loves, after having lived a turbulent
life together, both which was full of joy and dotted with suffering.
A “story from other times”
The story is told from Andrea’s point of view, now elderly and widowed. He
reflects back on his life spent with the only woman he ever really loved.
Andrea, a native of Veneto born in the 1950s, takes us back in time, to
when cell phones and computers did not yet exist, to when communist
ideology inspired the youth en masse. It was a time when women began their
fight for emancipation, leading many of them to laugh at the idea of
marriage – including Edith.
Edith is described as a sarcastic, rebellious girl, who even smoked in
places where it wasn’t allowed. She was committed to the battle for
emancipation together with her “comrades,” and maintained an almost
childlike enthusiasm and a particular vivacity (qualities which are unique
to her character).
Behind her battles, her desire to break the chains, and her contempt for
“love,” however, there lies a good heart. She has a heart, which has felt
deep loss, and she desperately needs to be taken by the hand, guarded, and
protected. In a word: to be loved.
A love that withstands the wounds caused by human weakness
Andrea is a different kind of guy – much more structured and calm. And he
has fallen head over heels for Edith. But it’s not just a simple love
affair; he truly feels that their souls are destined for one another.
Although at times he feels hurt – because fragile and fickle Edith pushes
him away – he never stops loving her with all his heart, even in the most
If she humiliates him, he doesn’t loathe her. If she pulls away, what
matters most to him is that Edith is okay. The miracle of true love is
this: it knows no offense that cannot be forgiven.
Andrea – ten years older, pragmatic and schematic – dreams of getting
married, starting a family, and building a life with someone. Edith
effectively wants all of the same things. But when Andrea asks her to
create this future together, she runs away because she doesn’t feel ready.
He does not then tie her down to him. Andrea being a good sea captain,
accustomed to seeing ships leave and then return, he lets her go. He
thinks: perhaps she too, like a boat tired of sailing, would eventually
return to his port.
Out of loneliness, Andrea will relinquish himself to unfruitful
relationships, only to realize that a soul is created only to experience
True belonging can only be found in freedom
Andrea’s patience, his unadulterated feelings, his ability to protect, his
strength to accept even the pain that may come with Edith’s fragility, will
cause the girl to untie her knots, let go of her fears, and feel that it is
worth putting down roots with someone who is ready to offer her a full
Marriage – which she ran away from in her youth and considered, in the
first years of their union, to be a simple “piece of paper” – will
eventually become the most important thing to Edith. It will not be a legal
matter of making cohabitation official, but of finally calling that unique
bond by its true name.
A novel that reaches the light at the end of the tunnel
This novel is not only a love story. It also highlights the fragilities
that every human being has within.
It explores the reasons behind silly behaviors––the deeper reasons for
which one runs away, drinks maybe one too many, or often jokes
And it also gives a possible antidote to the trap of the temptation of
nonsense, an antidote that we see so perfectly summarized in this dialogue:
Andrea: “No one can know how or when they will die.”
Amy: “It’s all nonsense.”
Andrea: “In some ways, yes. But it’s insanity that has an antidote.”
Amy: “What’s that?”
Andrea: “To live as if death doesn’t exist.”
Amy: “But it does exist.”
Andrea: “If you live by loving, it doesn’t.”