The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

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I have been racking my brain trying to remember which podcast, person, article or blog prompted me to read this book. I simply cannot remember.  I really need to start jotting down information like that in the future because now that I have finished reading this book, I would love to go back and read or listen to whatever I initially heard about it.

I came home from the library last week with a huge stack of books I had requested.  Since I recently finished a long one that took me almost 3 months to read (The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye…excellent!), I decided to tackle The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante first since, at a mere 188 pages, it was the shortest book in the stack.  I thought I would fly through it in a day or two and quickly move on to something else.  I was wrong.  Really wrong.  At times I had to put it down and take a break. I even thought about not finishing it because of its intensity, but then I thought it would be worse to leave myself hanging in the middle of something so dark.

The story is about a 38-year-old wife and mother in Italy named Olga.  She’s been married for 15 years to Mario and they have two young children, a son and a daughter, and a dog named Otto.  She was a writer but, as is common, her career became a low priority because she was devoted to doing everything for her family.  Out of the blue one day, Mario tells her that he’s leaving her. And he does, just like that.  The entire story is about how Olga deals with this massive shift in her life, this abandonment by the man with whom she has built her life and identity.  She goes through several stages of dealing with it including denial and a sort of horrifying madness that made my stomach churn.  It’s a story about the effects of divorce on a woman who has completely devoted many years of her life to her husband and family.

While I found this book to be dark, raw and chilling at times, Elena Ferrante’s writing is excellent and so powerful.  She is an Italian author but her true identity has been a mystery until recently when an Italian journalist claimed to have discovered her true identity.  The Days of Abandonment was her second novel, but she has since published many other books including her bestselling Neapolitan Quartet which begins with My Brilliant Friend (high on my to-read list now that I’m a Ferrante fan!).

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