This is the second novel of Grazia Deledda’s which I’ve read: the first one was La Madre (in English, The Woman and the Priest – a notable change of emphasis).
These novels were written about twenty years apart, but both have essentially the same plot and essentially the same style. The plot is this: a man desires (loves) a woman, but must struggle to suppress this desire. The reason for this suppression is different in the two novels: in La Madre, he has to suppress his feelings because he is a priest, but also because his mother has great admiration for the fact that he has become a priest. In Elias Portolu, it is because the woman in question is married to his brother.
I admit, this is a plot I tend to enjoy: the struggle between feelings and social pressures, with feelings all too likely to win out. It reminds me a lot of Zola and Eça de Queiroz. It is no surprise also that DH Lawrence was a great champion of her writings, since he has many of the same obsessions. Luckily though Grazia Deledda is a far better writer than Lawrence, unemcumbered as she is by his intellectual follies and didacticism.
She’s also a writer who creates her own little world: the world of Sardinia, of small sheep-herding communities, of tight-knit families both for good or ill, of simple pious folk. She seems like the kind of writer, rather like Colette or Hardy, whom you love coming back to again and again, as a return to familiar surroundings which once gave you pleasure.