A LEGACY, by Sibille Bedford. A cool, backward look at Victorian and Edwardian Europe, a time when the big rich were truly idle and upperclass life was dedicated to an endless battle with boredom. Middle-aged First-Novelist Bedford turns the cosmopolitan novel, a rare enough product nowadays, into an immensely entertaining remembrance—and indictment—of things past.

A LIGHT FOR FOOLS, by Natalia Ginzburg. A brief, near-poetic story of ordinary lives mired in the despair of Mussolini's Italy. Conceived in sympathy and written at the level of simple truth, it is one of the best...

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