The Road to the City follows Delia, a young woman barely awake to life. Her family is no help: her father is largely absent; her mother is miserable; her sister's unhappily promiscuous; her brothers are in a separate masculine world. Only her cousin Nini seems to see her.
A bleak and smarting read, a remarkable debut; it demonstrates Ginzburg’s perceptivity to the details that compose our individual plights, and, in our distress, unite us. The novella lacks the more pointed outrage of Ginzburg’s later works.
Ginzburg writes like someone used to being interrupted, precisely observing daily life with a sibling’s affectionate revenge. Her work is marked by a kind of atmospheric pressure ... The sense of tragedy lies in the speed—too much happens too irreversibly, too fast ... What in other writers might seem like an affected austerity here produces the urgency of trying to stop someone from walking into moving traffic. If the narrator speeds laconically along, seemingly repressing her emotional responses, it’s because that’s the nature of adolescent psychology, where profound loss finds only oblique expression. The novel harnesses its power through all that’s left unsaid.