Books: Once There Was a Woman

TORREGRECA by Ann Cornelisen. 335 pages. Atlantic-Little, Brown. $7.95.

Rounding a certain curve along the Appian Way, a modern traveler in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy easily imagines himself in the Middle Ages. On the hill opposite, like a romantic vision, sits an amphitheater of golden-tinted houses with red-tiled roofs rising row upon row to the double crown of a ducal palace and a Norman tower.

Rattling past this bend one June day in 1959 came the incarnate spirit of the emancipated and emancipating 20th century—a bright and determined Vassar girl in a Jeep. Neither the girl nor the town has ever...

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