The Days of Abandonment, Paperback
4 out of 5 (6 ratings)

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Review by
4

The structure of this novel is familiar: narrator suffers a personal calamity and moves through denial into a pattern of withdrawal from the world and increasingly eccentric behaviour which leads to some sort of (usually ludicrous) crisis where the narrator descends into full-blown madness for a while. This crisis then turns out to have had a cathartic effect and resolved things, allowing the narrator to return to normality. There's a whole sub-genre of these out there. It's a formula, but it mustn't be handled like a formula, because it's dealing with the real tragedies of everyday life: in Ferrante's case, the narrator's husband has walked out, leaving her to deal with kids, dog and apartment. It's also a form that needs to be handled with a degree of lightness: the sufferings of fictional characters can easily become trite or mawkish. Ferrante does this pretty well: her narrator, Olga, observes her own progress from intelligent middle-class housewife to scary madwoman with ironic detachment, and the flightiest emotional passages are always set against incidents of domestic triviality. But the reader isn't allowed to become altogether detached: when it comes to the big crisis scene, we may suspect from our knowledge of literary convention that everything will be resolved happily, but we can't quite be sure. As a literary novel, the book self-consciously plays with different meanings of <i>abandonment</i>. Olga has been abandoned, i.e. deserted, by her husband. But she has also abandoned, i.e. given up, part of herself in her relationship with the errant husband, a part which she is now trying to retrieve. Left alone, she becomes abandoned, i.e. wanton, in the sense that she increasingly loses her self-control, uses coarse language and thinks constantly about sex (incidentally, the book has one of the funniest sex scenes I've come across for some time). She has lost her grip on the things that are supposed to be central to her role as wife and mother&amp;mdash;the children get hurt, the dog is not properly looked after, the apartment gets into a mess, she behaves violently and immodestly&amp;mdash;and it becomes an open question which parts of her life are going to survive the crisis, if any. Obviously you have to decide for yourself whether this is brutally honest or gratuitously offensive: to me it comes across as shocking, but by no means implausible.

Review by
3.5

a woman's husband leaves her and her mind falls apart. very powerful book and i imagine that some women do feel this dysfunctional when their husbands leave them.

Review by
5

When my husand leaves, who am I? Thrown off kilter, deck of cards identity toppled, pieces scattered about, the main character loses her bearings even though she is now the primary caretaker of two impressionable young children who sense that something is wrong with Mamma. Mamma is dangerous, not dealing, off somewhere, and she is not reliable or safe. How awful for a child. And its no picnic for Olga who has never gotten a stable sense of herself either before marriage or in marriage, who obsesses on the other woman, who suspects neighbors of evil intent. How lonely for an adult. Abandonment by husband, abandonment as a child, its a nightmare lived in full daylight by a woman who is losing all anchor in a storm of major proportions. Excellent view from 'the inside' of what it feels like to be in this waking dream, and how it might feel to work one's way out.

Review by
3

Extremely depressing Italian novel about a woman's decent into madness and recovery after her husband leaves her. Very compelling and well written.

Review by
4

At the outset of <i>The Days of Abandonment</i>, the narrator’s husband announces that he wants to leave her. His announcement is void of emotion, reminiscent of Camus’ Meursault. His declaration is also entwined with self-serving professions of his own confusion and weariness after fifteen years of marriage. His wife is bemused at first, confident that he will come to his senses. Only gradually does it become plain to her that she has been abandoned, dispensed with, and – with the dawning realization that he has been involved in an affair for more than five years – humiliated. What begins in near tranquillity rapidly transforms as the narrator’s passion takes hold and rends her very sanity in response to her husband’s betrayal. It is a startling descent and entirely riveting. The narrator plummets to an almost bestial level only to, through the force of her own will, reascend, to rebuild her shattered sense of self, and reclaim her equilibrium.Ferrante displays remarkable control here with her narrator. She never slips into parody, both conforming to stereotypes of the “abandoned woman” (here modelled on a particular abandoned woman from the narrator’s childhood thirty years previous) while at the same time aggressively attacking those stereotypes. It is fabulous writing. The lengthy description of the day in August during which her “madness” comes to a head whilst events conspire to send her almost beyond redemption is harrowing.The ability that Ferrante displays in bringing her protagonist back from the brink is nothing short of astonishing. She avoids magical solutions as well as crassly romantic ones. And by the end we are certain that we are dealing with a narrator, and no doubt an author, who is entirely whole, grounded, and clear-sighted. Highly recommended.

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