I’ve been asking myself why I’m drawn to novels whose characters are caught up in the crises of our times. By “our” times, you understand, I mean in my lifetime, which may be “historic” to many of you. In any case, the book I’m reviewing today, Carey Harrison’s Justice, shed light on that question. It is because, in Harrison’s hands, such times reach deep into the human soul, its capacity for both evil and redemption.
Set in a small Italian coastal village whose hills, paths, beaches, and townspeople are so real they become home to us, Miri Gottleib, daughter of socialist London Jews, marries communist Count Piero. They settle into Casa Rosa, the Count’s family home, and give birth to Vittorio just as fascism begins to rumble across Europe and El Duce was rising to power.
So beautifully is the story of their marriage told, that Casa Rosa seems inoculated from both the village and the world beyond until the forces burst upon them, bringing tragedy and loss “that blackens the calendar.” This is not the end of the story, but the middle. Miri’s road back, driven by revenge, the words that restrain her, the rubble of villagers’ lives, to redemption is the heart of the book. It is truly a story of return from the depths.
It is my hope that as women begin to feel more at home in the world-at-large and therefore see lives as pushed and pulled by cultural, political, and historical forces, we will see more books like this from female authors. We are talented at creating characters, and at relationships, but we haven’t seen ourselves as movers in the world beyond the personal. This restrictive view shows in women’s fiction, and it’s time to move beyond.