Several years ago, when I was perusing the shelves in the fiction section of the downtown BORDERS, I came across the novel "History" by Elsa Morante. She was a writer that I had, hitherto, never heard of. But the subject matter of the novel caught my interest, and so I bought it.
This particular book I purchased earlier this year because I wanted to know something more about this woman. And in that respect, Lily Tuck does a thoroughly good job of providing the reader with the particulars of Elsa Morante's life and career. Born in 1912 to a rather unconventional family in Rome, Morante grew to be a strong-willed, passionate, and fiercely independent person. Among her most famous works are "Arturo's Island", "House of Liars", and "History" (a part of which reflects the life she and her husband Alberto Moravia lived when they were forced to go into hiding in the latter part of 1943 following the ouster of Mussolini and the de facto takeover of a large part of Italy by the Germans).
Lily Tuck aptly sums up her subject as follows: "Elsa Morante's life was never easy. She was a serious artist who wanted, through her work, to change the world, even as she knew quite well that it was impossible. She was a passionate, deeply spiritual person who despised authority under any form. She was immensely well read, she had a great sense of fun, she adored animals and children, Mozart, Rimbaud, Stendhal." This book is what a good biography should be: informative, insightful, and entertaining without being boring.