From Publishers Weekly
The pseudonymous Italian author of Days of Abandonment
returns with a daughter's attempt to unlock the mystery of her mother's death by drowning following years of domestic abuse. Days before her body washed ashore near her hometown of Naples, Amalia called her oldest daughter, Delia, now 45, with shocking news that she was with a man—not her estranged husband, a two-bit painter—then hung up, laughing. After the funeral (Amalia's husband doesn't show), Delia goes in search of the story behind the expensive new brassiere Amalia was found wearing at her death, incongruous for a poor seamstress who deliberately downplayed her good looks to avoid arousing her husband's savage jealousy. Caserta, a man who acted as Delia's father's agent as well as rival for Amalia's attention, plays a role here—and in Delia's past. In tactile, beautifully restrained prose, Ferrante makes the domestic violence that tore the household apart evident, including the child Delia's attempts to guard her mother from the beatings of her father. By the time of the denouement, Ferrante has forcefully delineated how the complicity in violence against women perpetuates a brutal cycle of repetition and silence. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This slender novel is set in motion by the strange circumstances surrounding a death, but it is more concerned with the enigma of memory and self. Delia, a cartoonist living in Rome, receives three incoherent phone calls from her mother, who is supposed to be on her way from Naples; the next day, her mother's nearly naked body washes up onshore at a seaside resort town. In Naples for the funeral, Delia is confronted with the past she tried to disown as she struggles to make sense of the events leading to her mother's drowning. A shadowy figure named Caserta, the man Delia, as a five-year-old, accused her mother of having an affair with, reemerges as possibly the last person to see her alive. Ferrante's polished language belies the rawness of her imagery, which conveys perversity, violence, and bodily functions in ripe detail. Delia's discovery of the secret of her childhood is made all the more jarring by the story's disorienting mixture of fantasy and reality.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker