Troubling Love, Paperback
4 out of 5 (3 ratings)




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Review by

I quite liked Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, which made its well-worn subject material – a married woman who finds out her husband is having an affair – seem fresh and intensely immediate. This one had some strong writing but was rather more scattered than The Days of Abandonment. The concentration that made that book so powerful was lost.This book deals with Delia who learns that her mother, recently found drowned in mysterious circumstances, had secrets of her own. She reflects on her mother’s unhappy marriage and memories from her childhood as she numbly attempts to unravel what happened to her mother. Delia displays a distance from everything that made it hard to get into her story. While on some level she needed her mother, she felt suffocated by and cool towards Amalia, her mother. After the funeral, she discovers a number of small, odd things about how Amalia spent her final weeks. She pieces together her mother’s relationship with a man from her past, but it occurs in a way that is both random and too-coincidental. There’s also a lot of time spent wandering from place to place. You get a good feel for the crowded city, but often I ended up wondering how Delia had gotten to that point. It seemed that she felt that way as well.The author is at her best when describing the relationships between Delia and her mother or Amalia and her abusive husband – you get a good sense of the intense push-pull felt in both relationships.

Review by

Mother disappears and is found washed up on a beach wearing little but a fancy lace bra from a well known Naples lingerie shop. Strange, because she is a seamstress so poor she mends her panties to make them last just a bit longer. Daughter Dellia traces mother's last steps, and in a style that seems like murder mystery within a dream, within a troubled psyche, one senses what it must be like for an adult to tense up with old childhood nightmares, old scenes of parental violence, childhood fears that have partially come true. There are inescapable physical similarites between mother and daughter that play into Delia's life, giving a sense of futility to her own identity struggle. Can a daughter escape in her own life the worst parts of a mother's complicated, not always happy life? Good question. The style reminds me of Margaret Atwood, in scene setting, in psychological scene shifting, moving between physical reality and dream reality. Kudos, Elena Ferrante, whoever you are.

Review by

Death both ends and initiates. Here, the sudden death by drowning of the 63-year-old, Amalia, brings her tortured life to an end. But it also sets her 45-year-old oldest daughter, Delia, on a harrowing journey as she returns to the Naples of her childhood, both physically and in unwieldy memory. The city heaves, sweaty body on sweaty body, in a claustrophobia-inducing press, sometimes violent, always lustful and threatening. Delia struggles to come to grips with why her mother ended up where she did, who might have been with her, and, more important, what might have driven her, even chased her down the long years of estrangement from her brutal and brutalizing husband.Very little is as it seems, however, the connection between Delia and Amalia is certain, not just in their shared appearance but in the history that binds them. This is writing at its harrowing best, not surprising perhaps with Elena Ferrante at the helm. Noir lighting and neo-realist melodrama clash with a frank sexual tempo that reduces women, especially, to little more than their clothes. Or frees them. The possibility exists. In either case it is a tense and sometimes uncomfortable journey that will leave you wondering where you’ve got to and whether you lost yourself along the way.Definitely recommended.