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09 December 2005

The Days of Abandonment (2002)

By Elena Ferrante and translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

From Publisher's Weekly via Amazon, ©Reed Business Infor- mation: "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."

Eh... While I was impressed with the first 30-odd pages of this novel, the depth of Ferrante's commitment to seeing this woman through some wretched, terrible self-flagellation and unchecked outrage became overwhelmingly nauseating.

The narrator, Olga, recounts an episode when she was a young writer, before her marriage and the sublimation of her identity to her husband's ambitions, their children, their life. She scorned her writing teacher's sympathy toward a work of fiction that detailed the powerlessness of abandoned, wronged women. She simply could not see herself as one of those pitiful creatures, so ghostly and frigid. And yet, when her dear Mario leaves her for a 20-year-old Lolita, she slides down a path to madness and neglect that puts her right in the middle of that same farcical, self-pitying drama.

As I read, I felt a similar sting of disbelief. I wanted to shake her, to get her on her feet, to pinch her arm and wake her up from the self-deluding daydreams that kept her from her responsibilities to herself and her children. I had anger for her. I had thoughts of my own potential for outrage and suffering if Keven ever left me. But I simply could not see myself as such a pitiful creature, so ghostly and frigid. And that, I believe, was the book's entire point. No woman knows how she will react when confronted with such a terrible scenario.

I just thought she (Olga and the author) took too long. She made horrible choices, endangered her children, panicked over little things, and generally annoyed me with her descent into incompetence and desperation. I understand that Ferrante had a point to make, but it hurt my head to see it through.

Blogger Diva Kitty's Mom said...

I only finished the first 25 pages or so. I hated her.

Blogger carrie_lofty said...

Terrible, wasn't she? She doesn't get any better - just winds up letting her dog die of poisoning!


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