The arresting third novel from pseudonymous Italian novelist Ferrante (Troubling Love) pursues a divorced, 47-year-old academic’s deeply conflicted feelings about motherhood to their frightening core. While on vacation by herself on the Ionian coast, Leda feels contentedly disburdened of her two 20-something daughters, who have moved to their father’s city of Toronto. She’s soon engrossed in watching the daily drama of Nina, a young mother, with her young daughter, Elena (along with Elena’s doll, Nani), at the seashore. Surrounded by proprietary Neapolitan relatives and absorbed in her daughter’s care, Nina at first strikes Leda as the perfect mother, reminding herself of when she was a new and hopeful parent. Leda’s eventual acquaintance with Nina yields a disturbing confession and sets in motion a series of events that threatens to wreck, or save, the integrity of Nina’s family. Ferrante’s prose is stunningly candid, direct and unforgettable. From simple elements, she builds a powerful tale of hope and regret. (May)
“THE LOST DAUGHTER” is hardly a parenting guide
By MISHA BERSON
May 23, 2008
The Lost Daughter
By ELENA FERRANTE
Europa, 160 pp., paperback, $14.95
If you are looking for uplifting bromides about the intimate mother-daughter bond, do not look to Elena Ferrante’s novels.
This superb and scary Italian writer, who chooses to remain anonymous by publishing her popular books under a pseudonym, has blown the lid off tempestuous parent-child relations in each of the three novels that have been translated into English for Europa Editions.
Books Briefly Noted
JUNE 9, 2008
THE LOST DAUGHTER
By Elena Ferrante
Translated by Ann Goldstein
In this brutally frank novel of maternal ambivalence, the narrator, a forty-seven-year-old divorcée summering alone on the Ionian coast, becomes obsessed with a beautiful young mother who seems ill at ease with her husband’s rowdy, slightly menacing Neapolitan clan. When this woman’s daughter loses her doll, the older woman commits a small crime that she can’t explain even to herself. Although much of the drama takes place in her head, Ferrante’s gift for psychological horror renders it immediate and visceral, as when the narrator recalls the “animal opacity” with which she first longed for a child, before she was devoured by pregnancy.
Trapped in the Mind of a Woman
April 25th, 2008
I love her writing, she’s perfect for book clubs, and no one knows who she really is.
Elena Ferrante is currently a very popular Italian author whose identity remains unknown. Imagine, in this age of celebrity, an author who actually chooses to avoid the celebrity machine, and succeeds! Ferrante lives in Naples, and that’s all anyone knows about her, other than that her swift, elegant novels are intense little bullets of literature, electrifying experiences in which you become trapped in a woman’s mind.