I continued my Cesare Pavese read with A beautiful summer.
I enjoyed A beautiful summer much more than The political prisoner, because it’s much more expressive, full of feelings and emotions.
The novel is the story of Ginia, an young orphan that lives with her brother, and having too much responsibilities for a 16 year old: a house to keep, and a full time job. However, she is very naive about the rest of the world, about friendship, trusting people, and relationships. The book’s title is a referral to the summer that Ginia spends together with her new friend, Amelia, who is much older , 20 years old, more experienced about life and full of lust. Ginia is attracted to her lifestyle, and discovers that Amelia works as a nude model for artists. This life is at first shocking to her, but Amelia’s spell makes Ginia explore more her world.
Amelia takes her to restaurants, cafes, incites her about smoking and drinking, and presents her to various artists. Ginia is amazed at Amelia’s frankness about nude posing, and considers herself too ugly and completely not attractive to be a painter’s model, but however deep inside should would feel very pleasant if one artist would like her to pose for him. She is very attracted by paintings, and finds it a very interesting experience when an artists wants to paint her profile.
Amelia presents her to a couple of artists, Guido and Rodrigues, who live together and sometimes go out with Amelia, having fun together. Amelia looks to be fond of Rodrigues, while Ginia begins to fall for Guido, an older young main, enlisted in army, with countryside origins, but full of mystery and with a special charm.
Ginia has a lot of principles she is not willing to give up, regarding her state in society, her body, unwilling to show it or let anyone approach her physically. She is reluctant and full of mistrust in herself being a woman, still considering she is too young for a new life on her own.
Her love for Guido makes her change a lot of her mind, willing to sacrifice something in order to obtain Guido’s affection. She experiences a platonic juvenile love, while still dazzled by Amelia, which shows to be more than a model, and having bizarre behavior, when she kisses Ginia on the lips and confesses she has a female lover, while caring for Rodrigues as well. Later, Ginia founds out that Amelia is sick with syphilis, contracted while love-making, and Ginia is panicked at the thought she might have got it as well by touching Amelia. Her naiveness is very well depicted in this episode.
Guido has a much more full life, with many friends, mature women, and considers Ginia still a child. He caresses her, but out of unwillingness or by really being a good heart he refuses to take advantage of Ginia’s love and falls asleep when they spent a night together, both undressed, and Ginia being ready to offer herself to him.
Ginia weeps bitterly at the thought Guido will never be hers as they are not ment for each other nor their relationship would have any future. She realizes she does not know him at all, and in the same way he doesnt know her either.
The last moment together is when Ginia decides to break all her principles in a final attempt to conquer Guido, by posing nude to him, in a scene of full shyness. She manages to pose, clumsy and ashamed, only to discover Rodrigues was watching too, which makes her cry and run away, this time for good. Guido’s words, “she is a fool” are the representation of what a good girl with moral principles appear in their eyes, a society that is downfalled and full of disease, lust, and hedonism.
Ginia cries for a period, only for Amelia to come back to her, and accept her once again into her life, after being cured of her disease.
The novel is a marvelous coming of age, interaction with society, where a young person begins to experience friendship, love, moral rules, and slowly adapting to an everchanging life, might it be good or bad.