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Reviewed by Alice Recker for Readers' Favorite
Patricia Borlenghi’s novel, Zaira is a compelling story of a woman who yearns for a freedom not allowed in her native country of Italy prior to the Great War. Zaira Crespi is raised by a loving but stern father who holds traditions close to his heart. He recognizes her wild nature and hopes she will settle down in their small hamlet of Torretta, a town once known by the family name, Crespi. Over time, power is diminished as lands divide and are handed down to sons. When Zaira’s father dies, he wills a small portion of land to his daughter. Her brothers resent their father’s actions. Zaira is restless and takes advantage of her father’s death to strike out on her own and leaves Torretta to find adventure and a life of freedom. She encounters Countess Bertini at a railway station who has misplaced luggage. When Zaira assists her, the countess hires her to be a companion to her meek niece-in-law who is married to one of her two nephews. The peasant girl eagerly accepts and finds herself under the spell of Leonardo, the nephew. Zaira remains unfulfilled until she gives birth to twins and realizes the depth of love a mother can have.
Zaira is a captivating story of the struggles not only of the female population before the war, but of Italy itself. Patricia Borlenghi tells a story that unfolds every emotion of the human soul through her characters. Her ability to describe the joys and heartaches of a woman who lived before her time only mesmerizes her readers. Borlenghi knows how to weave a tumultuous history throughout the lives of those struggling to hold onto traditions and the frustrations of wanting to break free of them. It is as if the author and the reader join in the strong desire to see the main character, Zaira, accomplish things women today take for granted in their lives. This is a novel well worth the time in reading it. I am very interested in reading more works by Patricia Borlenghi.