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.