FIRST PUBLISHED in English in 1958, "Two Women is a compassionate yet forthright narrative of simple people struggling to survive in war. The two women are Cesira, a widowed Roman shopkeeper, and her daughter Rosetta, a naive teenager of haunting beauty and devout faith. When the German occupation of Rome becomes imminent, Cesira packs a few provisions, sews her life savings into the seams of her dress, and flees with Rosetta to her native province of Ciociara, a poor, mountainous region south of Rome.
Cesira's currency soon loses its value, and a vicious barter economy, fraught with shifty traffickers and thieves, emerges among the mountain peasants and refugees. Mother and daughter endure nine months of hunger, cold, and filth as they await the arrival of the Allied forces. Cesira scarcely cares who wins the war, so long as victory comes soon and brings with it a return to her quiet shopkeeper's life.
Instead, the Liberation brings tragedy. While heading back to Rome the pair are attacked by a group of Allied Moroccan soldiers, who rape Rosetta and beat Cesira unconscious. This act of violence and its resulting loss of innocence so embitters Rosetta that she falls numbly into a life of prostitution. Throughout these hardships Moravia offers up an intimate portrayal of the anguish and destruction wrought by war, both on the battlefield and upon those far from the fray.show more