A soldier wandering through the streets of Rome resolves, rather drunkenly, that he must find himself a woman. It is Ida Mancuso's fate, at precisely that moment, to turn the corner of the street, laden with shopping. The soldier sees easy prey - but Ida confronts her nightmare vision. The year is 1941, the soldier is German and she is half-Jewish.
Elsa Morante's brave novel evokes the real terrors, fears and hopes of a mother living through one of the most horrifying events in recent times. In marked contrast to the posturing fascists on the political stage, this is the history of the Second World War as the ordinary people of Italy experienced it.