I am a devoted reader of Grazia Deledda, the Sardinian Nobel Prize-winning author. Her ability to write of the unique Sardinian culture circa 1900 and to do so from a woman's perspective is the core of her talent and her appeal. My devotion began with the first of her books that I read, "After the Divorce". To date, I have not come across another Deledda book that meets the artistic level of "After the Divorce" but "The Church of Solitude" comes closest of the six other Deledda books that I have read.
"The Church of Solitude" tells the story of a relatively young (28 years old) rural Sardinian woman who has had a mastectomy. Her doctor tells her to take it easy; no emotional involvement, peace and quiet, no overworking, and to expect the disease to return in about 10 years. The author gives us a vivid picture of a completely demoralized woman trying to deal with this reality. She returns home confused about how to approach with the rest of her life. She gets some advice from her priest (focus on serving others) while she is also dealing with the very real desires within her. The book does a good job of examining the conflicting messages of the doctor, the priest, and her own emotions. Oddly, as her self-esteem declines, the number of suitors increases (she has invested well). The competition of her suitors leads to a mystery that helps add an additional level of interest to the book. In a subtley presented way, the heroine, Concezione, is able to realize a direction that will enable her to accommodate the doctor, the priest, and herself.
"The Church of Solitude" was translated by E. Ann Matter and, while I can't comment on the translation, I do appreciate her inclusion of a good biography of the author and some literary observations as well.
I came away from "The Church of Solitude" with an appreciation that God's healing powers don't bring health as much as they bring peace. Health doesn't necessarily heal a troubled mind the way peace can cure an attitude about a troubled body. Grazia Deledda does an excellent job in bringing this out and it is the essential beauty of "The Church of Solitude"