This is another book that has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a few years. I bought it after reading and enjoying Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Then as I progressed through that Neapolitan trilogy I became less and less enthused by her writing so never picked this one up until recently.
I want to say I hated this book. The language was often filthy, the passages often overwritten and the main character not remotely likeable. But I read it at the same time I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which was banned for many of the same reasons, so I can’t. I have to give Elena Ferrante the benefit of the doubt. Maybe a woman really would react that way to her husband leaving her for a younger woman, debase herself in despair and sink in to a personal hell where caring for her children and herself is no longer possible. Maybe the crude, raw language is meant to reiterate her hell. Maybe the translator chose the wrong English words and expressions for Ferrante’s native Italian.
I didn’t like the book. I didn’t even want to continue reading it, but I did because I needed to know that Olga would come out of this hell she had condemned herself and her children to. She blames her husband, but it is her own reactions that put them all there. It is her own actions that bring them all out.
As with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, I wish the female characters weren’t stereotypical weak women who need men to give them value, women who give up their life, hopes and dreams for a man. But maybe it’s like Twain’s Huck and all isn’t as appears on the surface. It’s a best seller in Italy so maybe as an American, I’m missing something in the translation or the culture. Or maybe this is just a type of woman I don’t relate to.
None of that makes it a bad book although I do wonder if some of the popularity doesn’t derive from the secrecy surrounding the real identity of Ferrante.