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The Days of Abandonment Paperback – September 1, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 170 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Once an aspiring writer, Olga traded literary ambition for marriage and motherhood; when Mario dumps her after 15 years, she is utterly unprepared. Though she tells herself that she is a competent woman, nothing like the poverella (poor abandoned wife) that mothers whispered about in her childhood, Olga falls completely apart. Routine chores overwhelm her; she neglects her appearance and forgets her manners; she throws herself at the older musician downstairs; she sees the poverella's ghost. After months of self-pity, anger, doubt, fury, desperation and near madness, her acknowledgments of weaknesses in the marriage feel as earned as they are unsurprising. Smoothly translated by New Yorker editor Goldstein, this intelligent and darkly comic novel—which sat atop Italian bestseller lists for nearly a year, has been translated into 12 languages and adapted for an Italian film slated for 2006 release—conveys the resilience of a complex woman. Speculation about the identity of the pseudonymous Ferrante, whose previous novel is scheduled for 2006 release by Europa, has reached Pynchon-like proportions in Italy. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In this deeply observed, excruciatingly blunt novel, Olga, a middle-aged wife and mother, is plunged into a breakdown after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Her anguish is expressed through obscenity and violence, as she neglects her children and day-to-day responsibilities to obsess over what sexual acts her husband and his lover might be performing. Olga's rage and self-pity threaten to turn her into something of a monster; when she hears her daughter crying for her, she thinks, "But why should I hurry? I discovered with remorse that, if the child needed me, I felt no need of her." Still, Ferrante knows just when to let up, and the redemptive note struck by the ending is a welcome reprieve.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; First American Edition edition (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372001
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372006
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on February 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every once in a while a book comes around that is very difficult to review. Ms. Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment is one of those. The reason for this is that, though I am enthralled by Ms. Ferrante’s technique and the emotional truth that she uncovers in her story, I just don’t like it very much.

The story is straightforward enough: Olga and her two children, Gianni and Ilaria, are abandoned by her husband, Mario, for a younger woman; in fact, a much younger woman whom the entire family once knew well. Olga’s life proceeds to fall apart. The bulk of the novel examines the first few months of Olga’s life on her own.

Though nothing about Olga’s subsequent behavior seems in any way false, her level of anger and violence is foreign to me. I cannot connect to her willingness to verbally abuse everyone around her, physically attack her husband, and severely neglect her children and dog. I understand there are real people like her but at my lowest I have never found it in me to act out in profanity and violence. Because of this, I am unable to fully appreciate this novel’s excellences.

I also struggle with books that have no sympathetic characters. Not only is Olga problematic but also Mario. He abandons his family and appears to be guilty of statutory rape but exhibits not the slightest bit of remorse. The children behave horribly to a mother who is clearly struggling. These are difficult people with whom to spend time.

However, the literary part of me cannot deny that this is a well-done book. In particular, I was carried to the end by how well Olga’s ascent out of depression played so well with the person that was developed in the first part of the book. But it was not enough to save the experience for me.
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Everyone knows divorce is a terrible ordeal. When a marriage, a family, is suddenly ripped apart by the husband leaving for a younger woman, the suffering is horrific. It's one of the oldest of stories. Countless woman have experienced it. Those who do, look on others embarking on the path with pity and knowing. Women who've experienced this kind of break up know that the only way through it is, well, through it.

But no one talks about it. Probably because it hurts so damned much. Eventually, the mother and children get through the ordeal, each with their own private scars, but it just becomes a bad spot in the past, like a bruise on a banana.

Elena Ferrante talks about it. In Days of Abandonment, she goes into the home of Olga, Ilaria and Gianni and shows us what went on behind that closed door after Mario, husband and father, left them for Carla. The story is from Olga's point of view, and it is her anguish we feel most poignantly. But we see all of them, Olga, Ilaria, Gianni, even Otto the dog, swirling in the wake of Mario's departure. They plummet until it doesn't seem they can go any lower. Then they begin to heal.

The well-being of the mother and children can be measured by the way they view Carrano, their neighbor. When the story starts out, they see him through the eyes of Mario. Mario didn't like Carrano, and his observations were taken in by the rest of the family without question. After Mario leaves, Carrano goes through a remarkable series of transformations. He starts out sullen, unattractive and rude and migrates through lechery, incompetence to being a source of comfort.
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This is a remarkable novel about the abandonment of an Italian wife by her cad of a husband. The translation reads so smoothly that the reader would not be aware that the book originated in Italy. A quick read at less than 200 pages, "The Days Of Abandonment" is for anyone who suffers an unexpected rejection from a long-time lover or spouse.

The novel is accurate in tracing the major depression that Olga undergoes and comes through with agonizing pain and not always with grace. But she does come through it. The universality of abandonment is the same whether the reader is in Italy or America or anywhere else.
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Format: Paperback
In brilliant prose that is sometimes lyrical and sometimes brutal,this Italian novel puts us inside the mind of 38 year old Olga, mother of two young children, after she is abandoned by her husband for a younger woman. Olga is bereft. Her sense of self collapses and we watch as she descends into a kind of madness, haunted by the specter of the 'poverella', a woman abandoned by her husband who lived in Olga's building during Olga's childhood. However, what I found flawed about this beautifully written book is twofold. First, we are never shown how she emerges from her meltdown. It just seems to happen. Secondly, the ending is a cop out. Olga conveniently and quickly finds another man to take the place of the one who has left her. So in the end what has she really learned about herself as a human being, one not part of a couple? The message seems to be that a woman needs a man in her life in order to survive. For those readers who are animal lovers, be aware that there is a disturbing scene in the novel involving the death of the family's pet dog.
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