[These notes were made in 1984:]. I have never been a great fan of bleak 19th-century verismo, which is what Verga is all about. With the single exception of the last story in the volume (taken from his early and undistinguished romantic phase), all of these stories present a very bleak and dismal reality indeed - that of the poor people in Sicily. The general pattern of most of the stories is an intolerable situation (materially &/or emotionally) which gets worse and worse and finally culminates in an act of violence, often provoked by sexual jealousy. Money, adultery and, to some extent, the Church, are the mainsprings of action in all these stories, but it is action without shape. There is little or no dénouement in any of the stories and (of course in this school of writing), little attempt to analyze character. There are, I suppose, enough details available that the reader is invited to do the analysis. And there's a fair amount of overt symbolism, the plight of an animal often representing, or at least shedding further light on, the plight of human beings. The style is lucid and simple, but not in any way compelling, at least not in translation. I found myself distanced - the situation was alien, and I was not invited to invest emotion in the characters. So it was hard going at times, and I don't know if these techniques could really support a full-length novel. Altho' there was a certain sameness about the stories, I would pick "Ieli" and "Story of the St. Joseph's Donkey" as the two that stand out in my memory.