Novel Comments

30 Apr

The Days of Abandonment by the Italian writer Elena Ferrante (2002) is a tour de force. It is not a read for the fainthearted in its first-person depiction of the despair of a woman whose husband unexpectedly leaves her for another, much younger woman. The novel begins: “One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.” After assuming blame, he promptly left.

His abandonment is quickly followed by the fragmentation of her sense of self, her relationships with others, including her children, and even objects as they become less solid and less manipulable by her. Ferrante’s detailed description of the woman’s fragmentation is so visceral and painful that I found it difficult to read. Sometimes I was tempted to abandon the book; however, each time I was drawn back into its intensity, into, in the author’s words, the “excessive reaction that pierced the surface of things.”

In the end, after falling into “the holes in the net of events,” the character regains some sense of herself, and the fragmentation lessens, but, to use a Ferrante metaphor of the net. she is not able to reestablish a tight, close weave in the net that supports her.

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