By Elsa Morante
I read this book 13 years ago, and it still haunts me. It's a novel about a 37-year-old woman living near Rome during World War II, and it brought home the horrors of war to me for the first time. It shows how war affects everyday people with no food, no information, no connections—nothing to hold on to. The main character is a half-Jewish widow with a feckless older son. She's raped by a soldier and gives birth to an extraordinary child—Giuseppe. The book is her struggle to stay alive during the war with this magical little boy. The gravity of it will forever travel with you—I promise.