Rethinking Romanzo Rosa: The first person narrator and changing gender roles in Brunella Gasperini’s Rosso di sera

Publication year
Italian Studies in Southern Africa/Studi d'Italianistica nell'Africa Australe

Brunella Gasperini (Bianca Robecchi, 1918-1979), a popular writer and journalist, is known mainly for her long-lasting collaboration with important women’s magazines. She contributed to Novella (from 1952) and Annabella (from 1954) until her death, particularly as a personal advice columnist (Inglese, 1990:866-867). But Gasperini’s production includes several novels as well, conventionally grouped under the generic umbrella of romance fiction (Arslan & Pozzato, 1989; Roccella, 1998; Spinazzola, 2005:212). Aimed at a female audience, these novels are usually dismissed as entertaining reading, yet a closer look reveals a compelling relationship with contemporary reality, insofar as Gasperini’s stories often pose complicated questions on more realistic issues that relate to the readers’ everyday life and emotions. (103-104)


Gasperini’s technique dismantles the rosa’s traditional structures and creates a unique narrative voice, one that conveys both a sense of detachment from and identification with the characters, and therefore complicates the position of the (female) reader. Using a first person voice and a young male protagonist, both very unusual in the rosa canon, Gasperini unmistakably signals her departure from generic conventions, which are furthermore displaced thanks to the importance accorded to challenging themes such as sexuality and suicide. (106)


the insertion of an adolescent male protagonist gives Rosso di sera a peculiar and distinctive identity that separates it from other novels within the genre. The choice of a young male narrator becomes the lens through which a wider scenario is explored, one that offers a fertile ground for the discussion of women’s conflicting identities in 1960s Italy and the way these were represented in popular fiction. (122)