This story focuses on the women of a remote Alpine village, where life revolves around farming - and more particularly, around milk and cheese - in a way it has done for generations. Though the sense of place is acute in the book, equally the experiences and emotions of the women at the heart of it are timeless.
This community of a few hundred souls, where everyone not only knows but is related to everyone else, is, of course, the kind of environment that is fast disappearing in Europe - reminiscent of remote sheep-farming communities in mid-Wales or the Cumbrian hills or the Scottish highlands. This self-contained, traditional world is evoked with tenderness but without sentimentality or blinkers. The real world creeps up the mountain to the village all too often - for example, carrying off its menfolk to war, and blighting the women with more work still, and less aid.
The book spans more or less the entire twentieth century, and puts at the heart of each chapter a different woman, at a point in her life when her long-suppressed desire or anger or jealously flares briefly into vivid life only to die back again into a world quiet and stable once again, but subtly altered. The casual brilliance of Lippi's storytelling can be devastating; the reader passes by a seemingly innocuous sentence, only to turn back and see blood and fire everywhere in it.