- Paperback: 125 pages
- Publisher: Europa Editions (March 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1933372427
- ISBN-13: 978-1933372426
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 115 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Lost Daughter Paperback – March 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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)
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From The New Yorker
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 husbands rowdy, slightly menacing Neapolitan clan. When this womans daughter loses her doll, the older woman commits a small crime that she cant explain even to herself. Although much of the drama takes place in her head, Ferrantes 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.
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however, this novel annoyed me the entire time i was reading it. a lack of tidy plot is one thing, but ferrante's writing is almost incoherently vague at times, with switches in mood and feeling that seem almost arbitrary. and the language is frustrating to read -- clumsy sentences with odd wording and repetition. indeed, i began to wonder if it was in part a terrible translation, but the translator appears to have translated a bunch of fiction previously, including a number of ferrante's works. so. having no reason to blame the translation, i find myself not thinking very highly of ferrante's writing, and not likely to read anything else by her.
"When my daughters moved to Toronto, where their father had lived and worked for years, I was embarrassed and amazed to discover that I wasn't upset; rather, I felt light, as if only then had I definitively brought them into the world. For the first time in almost twenty-five years I was not aware of the anxiety of having to take care of them. The house was neat, as if no one lived there, I no longer had the constant bother of shopping and doing the laundry, the woman who for years had helped with the household chores found a better paying job, and I felt no need to replace her."
It's summer and since she is feeling happy about her new freedom, Leda decides to rent a beach house for six weeks, on the Ionian coast, near Naples. She packs her books and lesson plans for the coming school year and is planning to relax by lounging on the beach by day.
Early on she becomes fascinated by the interactions of an attractive young mother named Nina, and her young daughter, Elena. She also intently watches little Elena's interactions with her doll, which the girl calls by several different names. Several other family members visit the family on the beach as well. One day Leda notices the child by the waters edge, so she returns her to her mother who was lying on the beach blanket and hadn't noticed the child had wandered to the water. Another day when the family leaves the beach for the day, Leda notices that Elena's beloved doll was left buried in the sand. This incident upsets Leda, and suddenly this event, along with the interactions of mother and child, opens a floodgate of memories for Leda of her own days as a young mother. Some of the incidents which she recalls of things she did, and ways she reacted to her own daughters --were cringe-worthy.
This brief novella, just 124 pages, is sure to evoke emotions among readers, especially mothers. Narrated in the first person, this deep journey into a mother's psyche, gives the reader plenty to think about. Marriage, motherhood, personal freedom, sacrifice and career fulfillment are some of the conflicting issues that surface in this work.
Initially, I thought I might have a problem with the flow of the story due to the translation, but that was not the case. Once I got into the rhythm and into what was going on in Leda's head, I was hooked. I liked this one a lot, and would definitely recommend it.