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Troubling Love [Paperback]

Elena Ferrante , Ann Goldstein


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Book Description

Sept. 1 2006


"A deeply observed, excruciatingly blunt novel."-The New Yorker


"The raging, tormented voice of the author is something rare."-The New York Times


Following her mother's untimely and mysterious death, Delia embarks on a voyage of discovery through the streets of her native Naples searching for the truth about her family. A series of mysterious telephone calls leads her to compelling and disturbing revelations about her mother's final days.


This stylish fiction from the author of The Days of Abandonment is set in a beguiling but often hostile Naples, whose chaotic, suffocating streets become one of the book's central motifs. A story about mothers and daughters and the complicated knot of lies and emotions that binds them.


Elena Ferrante's previous novel, The Days of Abandonment, received excellent critical attention in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, Library Journal, and many other publications. Troubling Love is expected to follow in its footsteps.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions (Sept. 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372167
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 13.7 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #312,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The pseudonymous Italian author of Days of Abandonment returns with a daughter's attempt to unlock the mystery of her mother's death by drowning following years of domestic abuse. Days before her body washed ashore near her hometown of Naples, Amalia called her oldest daughter, Delia, now 45, with shocking news that she was with a man—not her estranged husband, a two-bit painter—then hung up, laughing. After the funeral (Amalia's husband doesn't show), Delia goes in search of the story behind the expensive new brassiere Amalia was found wearing at her death, incongruous for a poor seamstress who deliberately downplayed her good looks to avoid arousing her husband's savage jealousy. Caserta, a man who acted as Delia's father's agent as well as rival for Amalia's attention, plays a role here—and in Delia's past. In tactile, beautifully restrained prose, Ferrante makes the domestic violence that tore the household apart evident, including the child Delia's attempts to guard her mother from the beatings of her father. By the time of the denouement, Ferrante has forcefully delineated how the complicity in violence against women perpetuates a brutal cycle of repetition and silence. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Forty-five-year-old Delia returns to her childhood home of Naples, Italy, to discover the truth behind the drowning death of her mother, Amalia. Suspicious circumstances surround Amalia's last days; the humble seamstress, who never flaunted her beauty for fear of her jealous husband's wrath, was wearing nothing but an expensive designer brassiere at the time of her death. As Delia wanders the vibrant streets of Naples, she ponders three dubious men who figured prominently in her mother's past: Amalia's irascible brother, known for hurling insults at acquaintances and strangers alike; her husband, a mediocre painter with no qualms about slapping Amalia in public; and his lascivious agent, whose marriage never precluded him from propositioning other women. Ironically, it is her mother's death that enables Delia to make better sense of her own life. "I realized . . . that in fact I had Amalia under my skin, like a hot liquid that had been injected into me at some unknown time." Pseudonymous Italian novelist Ferrante (The Days of Abandonment, 2005) delivers a brutally frank tale about the dangerous intersection of rage and desire. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Amalia had the unpredictability of a splinter. I couldn't impose on her the prison of a single adjective." Oct. 1 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This intense psychological novel, recently translated into English, recreates a daughter's efforts to understand her mother following her mother's mysterious death. Delia, an artist of comic strips, receives three strange phone calls from her mother just before her mother disappears on her way from Naples to Rome to visit Delia. When the body of Amalia, Delia's mother, is ultimately discovered floating near a beach, she is nude, except for a piece of designer underwear, not typical for her mother. Though she has never been close to her mother, Delia is understandably curious about the circumstances of her death, and she leaves Rome to investigate her mother's life in Naples.

There she learns from a neighbor that her mother had been seeing someone. An expensive shirt belonging to a man, and a garbage bag containing her mother's well-mended underclothing, are the only clues to Amalia's recent life. A strange telephone caller tells Delia to leave the laundry bag of dirty clothing for him, and he indicates that he has left a suitcase of her mother's things in the apartment, new designer items, unlike anything her mother has ever worn.

So begins Delia's quest to discover who her mother really was--and, in the process, who she herself is. As she reconnects with a friend from childhood and learns about her mother's recent relationship, she is forced to remember early events in her relationship with her mother, and to re-examine her feelings about her mother's life from her present adult perspective. Ultimately, she must rethink her own role in affecting the outcome of her mother's life.

Author Elena Ferrante, a pen name used by one of Italy's foremost (and most private) contemporary authors, creates haunting mysteries from the lives of ordinary people leading seemingly ordinary lives--the kinds of mysteries which always exist for family members who can never quite get inside the lives and relationships of people they think they know but whose intimate lives they have not shared. Gradually, Delia begins to realize she may be more her mother's daughter than she had realized. Dense with imagery which speaks directly to the reader's own sensibilities about family, this emotional and introspective novel is also full of ambiguities which resonate long after some of the mysteries have been solved. n Mary Whipple
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The uneasiness of bodies Jan. 29 2007
By kubanna - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"For all the days of her life she had reduced the uneasiness of bodies to paper and fabric..." So Delia describes the life of her deceased mother Amalia, a seamstress. Both the uneasiness of bodies and the way we clothe ourselves are recurring themes in this beautifully crafted and expertly translated novel. Elena Ferrante uses these themes to explore the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, conveying the simultaneous longing and revulsion felt by daughters for their mothers. Of her mother, Delia claims, "I was identical to her and yet I suffered because of the incompleteness of that identity." She reacts by running away from Naples and does not return until forced to do so by her mother's mysterious death. The ensuing trip turns into a deep exploration of Delia & Amalia's pasts and each woman's desires.

As a narrator, Delia is at once distant and intensely emotional. This makes her one of the most compelling characters I have found in modern literature. This book was so engrossing that I read it from start to finish in just under two days. I have discovered a new favorite author in Elena Ferrante.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5/5 stars - packs a punch! Nov. 9 2011
By My2Cents - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Troubling Love is my third book by an Italian author, who goes by the pseudonym, Elena Ferrante. The other two books, The Days of Abandonment and The Lost Daughter, also published as Europa Editions were a treat to read. All three books were translated from Italian, by Ann Goldstein who did a great job.

Troubling Love, packs a punch, beginning with the opening sentence...."My mother drowned on the night of May 23rd, my birthday, in the sea at a place called Spaccavento, a few miles from Minturno. "

Told from the POV of Delia, the 40+ year old daughter of the late Amalia. While waiting for her mother to visit her traveling from Naples to Rome, Delia receives several strange telephone calls from her mother. One indicating that a man was following her and wanted to wrap her in a carpet, and then another saying that she was going to have a bath. She was discovered floating in the sea, wearing only a lacy and expensive bra, the type of undergarment that her mother would not normally have worn.

Early on the reader learns that when Delia was young, her mother's absences caused Delia much anxiety, as she would stare out of the window endlessly waiting for her return. As an adult, Delia and her mother had a rocky relationship. When her mother would come for a visit she would reorganize her daughter's home to her own liking, causing friction between the two. At her mother's funeral, Delia feels relieved about not having to worry about her 63 year-old mother any longer --she doesn't shed a tear at her funeral, like her two sisters did. Amalia's husband, who she had been estranged from for many many years, did not attend the funeral.

After the funeral, Delia goes to her mother's "dirty and ugly" 4th floor apartment, and begins to look around. She sees several more things that make her wonder about what her mother had been doing the days before she died. Her mother was poor and she typically dressed shabbily; a frugal woman, yet why did she leave the water running in her apartment, and what was that expensive men's shirt doing in her drawer, and what about her other odd possessions?

Delia becomes obsessed with finding out more about her mother's life, and how she died, and in the process she unearths more of her own painful childhood, growing up in an abusive home. Each step along Delia's journey while searching for the truth, her behavior becomes increasingly bizarre, and at times it seemed as if she was hallucinating. Yet how valid are those memories from our past, especially when people tend to repress painful happenings?

Probably even more so than the two other books by this author, Troubling Love is an emotionally charged, at times - sexually raw, and cringe-worthy story. It's not an easy story to read, even though it is just 139 pages, but once you've begun you will not want to put it down.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You are your mother and your mother is you April 28 2013
By Leigh barbier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I did not love this book as much as My Brilliant Friend or Days of Abandonment , but it is memorable. If you have ever experienced the mutual absorption of you and your mother into each other, you will appreciate how Ferrante beautifully describes this skin crawling, compelling and visceral process.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best book I read all year Feb. 7 2013
By Ilse Cordoni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Elena Ferrante is a FIERCE writer . . .but this is not my favorite book of hers. A rather obsessive mother/daughter story . . .not an easy read but for those who like her writing as much as I do, in general, I'd still recommend it.

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