I've just finished re-reading Alessandro Manzoniís wonderful novel, The Betrothed (I promessi sposi). I believe Italian school children are put off it due to it reputation as the Great Italian Novel. For me who does not know its reputation, I love it.

It is an historical novel set in the 1620s near Milan. Despite the terrible events as part of the background, (famine, riots, war, plague) there is a strong sense of the human potential to survive and love. They are almost all described as fallible and compromised, but Manzoni gentle irony gives a very endearing glow.

In the contemporary novels of Walter Scott the main characters are gentry or noble and the lower orders provide comic relief. For Manzoni, the principal characters, the betrothed of the title, are prosperous peasants, prevented from marrying at the beginning by the pusillanimity of the parish priest giving into menaces by the thugs of the local nobleman, who has designs of the bride. The nobles and gentry do not come well out of the book.

I found overwhelmingly emotional a science when another nobleman, who runs a major criminal organisation with his thugs, is disturbed at his guilt and visits the saintly Archbishop of Milan, who welcomes him. Under the bishopís influence the sinister nobleman repents.

This book deserves to be much better known in the English speaking world.