Troubling Love Paperback – Sep 1 2006
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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.)
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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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Birth and death connected, an exploration of identity, sexuality. "Amalia had been. I was Amalia." This is a very psychological exploration of abuse, of love. The compounded and shared tears of women. The bleeding womb as weeping. Ferrante also explores the confusion of childhood; "Childhood is a tissue of lies that endure in the past tense: at least, mine was like that."
Ultimately Delia realises that she has become what she most feared - her mother.
Ms. Ferrante has written a novel that transcends ersatz dime store female literature and presents a moving picture of universal interest. Great literature is not great simply because a woman wrote well or not great because women by definition cannot or should not write (remember George Eliot).
But let me not belabor the obvious. I believe that two unremarked aspects of this novel are the brutally realistic picture of life in Naples (one need only read Ferrante's letter to the New York Times, available from Europa Editions) and the clever exposition of her male characters and their reliance upon women to define their existence. These qualities are what make it great and enduring.