The Sidney Morning Herald

The Beach at Night review: Elena Ferrante’s biggest surprise – a children’s book

Kerryn Goldsworthy

A children’s book is probably the last thing anyone  expected from Elena Ferrante, but this unnerving little gem was first published in 2007 and so pre-dates her Neapolitan  quartet. It’s the tale of a doll that gets left on the beach, at the mercy of the Mean Beach Attendant and his rake and his fire, after being forgotten by the little girl who now has eyes only for her new kitten. Anyone who has suffered the pain of being cast aside in favour of a new love object will relate, and there’s also the powerful imagery of being abandoned to terrifying dark forces once the daylight fades. So I imagine it might give a sensitive or insecure child nightmares, despite its sweet and unexpectedly redemptive ending. Mara Cerri’s softly coloured and dreamlike illustrations are  not sentimental at all.