The Oldest Girl is the story of one of the Church's young--est saints told from a modern perspective. Maria Goretti was the daughter of dirt poor Italian peasants. When she died in 1902, she was eleven years old. She refused to let the family's lodger Alessandro Serenelli make love to her. Maria's mother had warned her daughter about Ales--sandro but told her she could let the boy touch her - but t below the waist. Alessandro stabbed Maria fourteen times. She died in a local hospital. He was only 17 and so too young to be executed. After the end of the 1939-1945 war, Pope Pius XII (who has been accused of doing little to resist the Nazis) de--cided he needed a glamorous young saint to inspire Italian youth. The Pope wanted to inspire Italian girls to resist the advances of American G.I's who were swagger--ing through Italy. He pushed through the canization of Maria in record time, so fast in fact that Maria's mother, Assunta, was still alive and could take part in the celebra--tions. This is a moving and wry vel by a writer whose last book won glowing reviews.