A young woman, trapped in a provincial town, dreams of being rescued by love. But the Marchesa Colombi puts a twist on that old plot in her story of Denza Dellara, a clumsy Cinderella too big for her hand-me-downs and saddled with a family that seems to go to great lengths to frustrate her hopes - and to make her see reality. To escape everyday boredom, Denza conceives a love for the most unlikely of Prince Charmings, the gargantuan Onorato, a rich local who quotes opera to her but cannot possibly marry a girl without a dowry. Denza carries on a romantic vigil for her ""gray elephant"" while lamenting her many woes, until she catches the attention of a prosperous farmer. This Frog Prince has an enormous wart on his forehead but he can end her daydreaming and save her from impending spinsterhood...if she lets him. Natalie Ginzburg claimed the book as an influence on her own work, saying, ""What I found unusual...was a way of presenting people and facts without romanticizing or idealizing them, in a straightforward, light and nonchalant way that I wasn't accustomed to in books, because the books that I was used to reading overflowed with cloying sentimentality."" This edition at last introduces this forgotten novel to an English-speaking audience.
The Marchesa Colombi (1840-1920) was born Maria Antonietta Torriani in the town of Novara. At thirty she moved to Milan and became a journalist, a novelist, a translator, and an active feminist who taught English in a Milanese liceo founded to offer women an alternative education. She produced popular works like In risaia and Prima morire but had been forgotten until A Small-Town Marriage was reprinted in Italy in 1973.