"The Valley of Decision" (1902) is the first long novel of Edith Wharton. The story is set in 18th century Italy, where Odo Valsecca rises to power. The four books of the novel describe how he becomes a responsible member of Italian nobility. During his journey, he has to deal with the aristocracy, the church, the free thinkers, and the peasants. We find detailed, deep and rich descriptions of characters from all classes, along with the political background of the era.
We can follow Odo's life from his youth - influenced by St. Francis Assisi, poverty and grief - through young adulthood - characterized by contacts with free thinkers, love, court spies and intrigues - to maturity, when he accepts the honor and duty of being the Duke of Pianura.