I love to read, and don’t get nearly enough time to do it. I’ve made a pact with myself going forward to try and review the books I read; it’s all too easy to forget that reading isn’t just about turning the pages and reaching the end, it’s about digesting and reflecting on what you’ve read, and sometimes I neglect this stage in my eagerness to add another book to my ‘finished’ log and put it on the shelf, ready to start the next one.
So, to kick off, here’s my review of THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT by Elena Ferrante:
The Days of Abandonment is the second novel by daring Italian writer Elena Ferrante. It follows the decline into madness of Olga, whose husband casually discards her for a younger woman, leaving her angry, distracted and unbalanced. It’s a no-holds-barred account, full of vulgar language and searing rants, but also beautiful reflections on life, ambition and love. She may be losing her mind but Olga is conscious of everything she’s experiencing, like a curious, bemused observer. This results in some painfully honest descriptions of everything from bad mothering to what must be one of fiction’s most humiliating and least erotic sexual encounters ever! The crux of the novel is a kind of Escher-like nightmare where, imprisoned in her flat, Olga circulates repeatedly through a montage of ever-increasing horrors, mirroring perfectly her sense of being trapped inside her own sick mind.
This is a brave and surprising novel with many layers. While disturbing and grim at times it is also refreshingly frank and full of character. Here’s a flavour:
“When the children were at school, I lay down on the sofa, got up, sat down again, watched TV. But there was no program that could make me forget myself. At night I wandered through the house, and I soon ended up watching the channels where women, above all women, tossed in their beds like wagtails on the branch of a tree. They simpered indecently behind the superimposed telephone numbers, behind captions that promised lavish pleasures. Or they made coy, teasing remarks in sugary voices as they writhed. I looked at them wondering if Mario’s whore was like that, the dream or nightmare of a pornographer, and if, during the fifteen years we had spent together, he had secretly longed for this, just this, and I hadn’t understood. So I became angry first with myself, then with him, until I started crying, as if the ladies of the television night, continuously, exasperatingly, touching their giant breasts, or licking their own nipples as they wiggled in faked excitement, made a spectacle that could sadden one to tears.”
Elena Ferrante is also the author of the epic Neapolitan trilogy – My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, and Those Who Leave & Those Who Stay – which are now definitely on my ‘to read’ list.