Natalia Ginzburg’s “The Dry Heart” is a spare, sombre novella about a decayed marriage. It opens with its narrator shooting her husband Alberto between the eyes, then rewinds to the beginning of their relationship, which seemed destined for capitulation from its commencement.
Upon their first meeting, the narrator states, “I didn’t really like him,” and later on, Alberto declares his love for another woman. And yet, they are married, and through plainspoken, vivid language, Ginzburg details the capriciousness of their connection, which grows increasingly tenuous and vitriolic. Until, one day — blam.
First published in Italy in 1947, this is my first Ginzburg, and it won’t be my last. There’s nothing antiquated about her storytelling. Here, she courageously delves into the bleak and painful aspects of an average life. Despite the barbarity of her opening action, we understand what drove Alberto’s wife to that point; a lifetime of grievances burgeoning to a point of no return.
I know this comparison is potentially laughably asinine, but I got serious Gillian Flynn vibes from “The Dry Heart.” It’s a razor-sharp psycho-thriller; and it absolutely whetted my appetite for more Ginzburg.