I discovered Elena Ferrante’s writing relatively recently (much like a lot of people outside of Italy really) and I love it. The characters that she creates are complex and many of her narrators are female and cover different themes relating to being a woman.
I’m half way through her Neapolitan series but I probably wont buy the second two book until I’m home at Christmas, so to tide me over I decided to look for some of her other novels and I downloaded The Days of Abandonment on my kindle.
I hesitated though. Once of the things I like about the Neapolitan novels is the main character Elena and her growth throughout the books. Even though in the series there is a lot of violence and toxicity I find Elena’s story largely one of growth and positivity.
I had read a couple of reviews on The Days of Abandonment and it seemed as though it was a bleak book, but I went it with eyes wide open so wasn’t shocked when it turned out to not be the prettiest book.
It starts with the narrator Olga’s husband leaving her and their two young children, then tracks her descent into madness over the following summer months. What I found compelling about this book is the rage that she has.
Olga becomes consumed with anger and it takes over her ability to function. I was uncomfortable reading it at times and it did frustrate me a little that she couldn’t just pull herself out of it. Instead she seems to spiral further and further down.
Olga is angry about a lot of things. Throughout her marriage she devoted a lot of her time and energy into supporting her Husband achieve his success. She had one day expected to enjoy the rewards of that success together. So to be left so abruptly for another woman left was hard to take.
It really made me think about what some women give up to support their partners. It also made me think about the importance of woman realising they are whole alone. That we don’t need a male figure to make us complete. This is definitely something that I think is an underlying theme in this book.
The language that Ferrante uses is extremely powerful. Olga narrates it and her emotions that she experiences are ugly and vulgar so it makes sense that the language is ugly too.
I really liked the end of the novel, but to give that away would be spoiling things. So I will leave you with my final thoughts. It’s not a feel good read but on the whole it’s a book I would recommend. Unless you detest strong language, in which case I would say that this is not the book for you.