“The Days of Abandonment” by Elena Ferrante


I wish I hadn’t read this book. It’s about how a woman goes to pieces slowly and painfully after being abandoned by her husband of fifteen years. The opening line sets the stage for what is to follow: One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me. He did it while we were cleaning the table, the children were quarrelling as usual in the next room….”

An all too familiar tale told in excruciating detail by a famous author who has preferred to remain incognito. Her Neapolitan novels are making waves, and that’s what prompted me to pick out this earlier work of hers (or is it ‘his’?). I must confess I’m sorely disappointed. The book begins with a whimper and ends with a whimper. I’m not without empathy for suffering women, but I prefer the strong ones who face life squarely. I can’t help thinking that J K Rowling is a single mother too and look at what she accomplished. I know it isn’t fair to compare, but it’s just that I hate sob stories, and this one really takes the cake.

The book is not without merit though. For women in similar situations, it might strike a familiar chord. A plethora of negative emotions, the sinking of the woman’s spirit into a deep, dark abyss of despair is vividly and convincingly portrayed. That’s why I wish I hadn’t read it.

The author is undoubtedly a master at portraying intense emotions. “After my marriage, I had quit and followed Marc through the world, wherever he was sent by his work as an engineer. New places, new life. And to keep under control the anxieties of change, I had, finally, taught myself to wait patiently until every emotion imploded and could come out in a tone of calm, my voice held back in my throat so that I would not make a spectacle of myself.”

Every sentence weighs heavy upon the heart. Sad, sad, sad – that’s all there is to it.

Overall assessment: Read only if you enjoy wallowing in pain.

The Days of Abandonment
Author: Elena Ferrante (translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein)
Publisher: Europa Editions
Publication Date: 2005 (first published in 2002 in Italy)

Contributor: Pushpa Kurup lives in Trivandrum, India and works in the IT sector.

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