Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Being a big fan of Ferrante's work and having read all volumes available in her Naples series, I reached back into her early work and read The Days of Abandonment.

I had a very different relationship with this one: it's too dark for me, too personal, too bitter.

I heard John Waters say once that Elena Ferrante was one of his favorite "angry women writers" and having only read her Naples series then, I found this comment puzzling. The series isn't necessarily "angry" at all. Certainly there are moments of anger but the book is far more complex than anger.

But after reading The Days of Abandonment, I can see what he meant: the protagonist relates the story of a short period of time she went through after her husband left her. The opening line:

One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.

Olga, the protagonist, then falls into a mental abyss of fear, anger, doubt and pain. It's like one furious rant from beginning to end.

I am so glad I started with her Naples series which, to my mind, is far more interesting.

I don't know why I couldn't relate to this novel as well: the anger? The specifics of the experience? Olga's experience feels somewhat dated since she seems to have no life or interest or friends outside of her family life. I don't know if that would be a common experience in contemporary Italy but it certainly doesn't seem like it would be that common in North America.

It's a short, zippy book that can be read in a couple of evenings. Though be prepared for lots of negativity!

All this leads to our very special Elena Ferrante Brunch which we are doing as part of Blue Met 2015. Lynne Robson, former correspondent for The National, hosts the brunch and it'll be a great opportunity for anyone who's a fan of Elena Ferrante (or would like to become a fan perhaps) to come, discuss her work, meet other fans. The event is on Saturday late morning, April 25. It costs $25 and includes breakfast. But move fast: our breakfast/brunch events usually sell out. Tickets go on sale a week from today and can be bought at La Vitrine.

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