I am in a bit of a Europa Editions kick. Along with Margherita Dolce Vita, I checked out The Girl on the Via Flaminia by Alfred Hayes from the public library. It's a reprint of the novel which was originally published in 1949. I have to say I am really liking these books.
I didn't know anything about Alfred Hayes when I checked it out. Apparently he was a British writer, poet, and screenwriter. He even won an Academy Award in 1951. Wow. And apparently he adapted The Girl on the Via Flaminia into a play and then a film staring Kirk Douglas called Un Acte D'amour.
A little bit about the story:
It's set in Rome, Italy during World War II. Robert is an American stationed in Rome during the period following the liberation of Italy from the Germans. Italy was very grateful to the Allies...at first...but now they just want them gone. They want their country back.
Robert has made a deal with a local Italian girl, Lisa. She rents a room in a house, they pretend they are married. She gets some food, gifts, etc....he gets company at night. But in war, nothing is that simple.
This was a fairly short novel but very powerful. The book jacket sort of gave me the impression that this was a love story. But I wouldn't call it that. It really portrayed a segment of society that may get overlooked in other war stories. What happens to people when their country is occupied whether it be by friends or foe? What happens to the women? How do they survive?
I found it fascinating that Robert is an American while Alfred Hayes was a British writer. It really didn't portray Americans in a positive light...not negatively but definitely not positive either. Maybe spoiled and naive. And the title of the book, I think, references the type of girls who walk the streets who get picked up for money. And of course the ending was perfect for this type of novel. It really leaves you hanging...which is the point.
I found a great cover of an older edition of this novel: