Publishers Weekly: "Hayes musters authentic detail and masterly control in this still-crackling melodrama."
Date: Oct 26 2006
Hayes (1911-1985) was a novelist (My Face for the World to See ), screenwriter (The Bicycle Thief ;Clash by Night ) and songwriter ("The Ballad of Joe Hill"). This grim novel of WWII, first published in 1949, opens on the Pulcini family of Rome's Via Flaminia, reduced to poverty after five years of war. They survive by converting their large apartment into a boardinghouse and nightly cafe for occupying American soldiers: bitter, insomniac "Mamma" Adele procures girls for the soldiers, while her vague, ineffectual husband, Ugo, and their seethingly hostile partisan son, Antonio, look on (in indifference and disgust, respectively). Through a departing tenant, lonely American private Robert Guarda arranges live at the Pulcini's with Lisa Costa, an young, blonde Italian woman who hopes to emigrate-and whom Robert has never met. They're not married, but allow everyone to assume they are. Robert is bewildered by Italian hostility for the U.S., while Lisa feels increasingly cheapened and angry at his sense of entitlement over her vanquished country. In the end, their arrangement ("She was hungry, I was lonely") results in a sinking, hopeless shame. Hayes musters authentic detail and masterly control in this still-crackling melodrama.(Jan.)