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I Giorni Dell'abbandono by Elena Ferrante
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I Giorni Dell'abbandono (edition 2002)

by Elena Ferrante

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4581922,714 (3.66)56
Member:lucacan
Title:I Giorni Dell'abbandono
Authors:Elena Ferrante
Info:Edizioni E/O (2002), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, To read
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The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

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English (15)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (19)
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Beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein)

The circle of an empty day is brutal and at night it tightens around your neck like a noose.”

Having read all four of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet last year, I thought I knew what to expect from The Days of Abandonment. Chosen by my very small book group for our May read I was very much looking forward to a book I had suggested, however I was completely taken by surprise by the tone of this novel . In time, I am glad to say, I came to love The Days of Abandonment, but it did take me a little while to be convinced. The Days of Abandonment is on the face of it the story of a woman’s descent into despair following the ending of her marriage; however it is much more the portrayal of her actual breakdown, in all its ugliness and misery. I was ill prepared for the anger and gut wrenching raw intimacy of this novel – at times that anger is almost visceral – and there are moments when the reader really would rather look away.

One day just after lunch Olga’s husband Mario tells her he is leaving her. Olga; abandoned by her husband though not really believing he means to stay away permanently – having the rug ripped away she is left floundering. Left in the apartment with her two children and the family dog, Olga experiences a dark and frightening descent into a loss of identity. Haunted by the memory of a woman from her childhood who earned herself the name the ‘poverella’ she too was a woman abandoned, left destitute. Trying to maintain a good relationship with Mario, not ready to face up to the realities of her marriage, she recalls the flirtation her husband had with the young daughter of her friend some years earlier. Olga walks the streets of her city, at odds with who she is and where her life has taken her. Becoming a distant, distracted mother, Olga is often rather neglectful while she is locked into her own despair. She clings to her children , selfishly thinking more of her own wants than their needs.

“Even if I tried to tell myself that I had given him nothing, that the children were mostly mine, that they had remained within the radius of my body, subject to my care, still I couldn’t avoid thinking what aspects of his nature inevitably lay hidden in them. Mario would explode suddenly from inside their bones, now, over the days, over the years, in ways that were more and more visible. How much of him would I be forced to love forever, without even realizing it, simply by virtue of the fact that I loved them? What a complex foamy mixture a couple is. Even if the relationship shatters and ends, it continues to act in secret pathways, it doesn’t die, it doesn’t want to die.”

It is soon apparent that her husband has another woman, and fury and bitterness consume her. Taking her anger out on whoever is in her path, Olga’s behaviour spirals out of control. Olga must still try and cope with daily life – but her children have to make their own way home from school, the dog has to be exercised but Olga is struggling to maintain normal everyday life. She can’t accept at first that her marriage could be over. She imagines that she can make Mario return to her, first by demonstrating how without him the family is unable to operate as normal, then later by showing how they are coping well. Olga enlists the children’s help in her deceptions but the children just seem to become more bewildered by the situation, more distrustful of this new mother. When Olga comes home one day to find her husband has let himself into the apartment and taken away earrings which he had bought for her, Olga rashly arranges for the locks to be changed. Despite having been – as her young daughter later reminds her – rather stupid about locks in the past, Olga consents to the fitting of a complicated double lock. Bills go unpaid, the phone no longer connects to the outside world, a mobile phone gets broken, and an infestation of ants must be dealt with.

Carrano, the solitary musician who lives in the apartment below is drawn into Olga’s fragile existence when she finds his wallet and returns it late one evening. The awkward, mutually unsatisfying sexual encounter the two have on this occasion testament to Olga’s need to have somebody want her.

So when her son and the dog both fall ill at the same time, and she finds herself literally locked into the apartment Olga must draw on reserves which she doesn’t even feel that she has in order to look after her family. Olga has to face up to the fact that things have changed, that her life won’t simply return to how it was before.

There is so much to admire in this novel, Ferrante’s writing is extraordinarily good, there is an uncomfortable honesty in her depiction of this abandoned wife. I have read – since finishing the book that the novel was greeted with some controversy upon its publication in Italy in 2002 because Olga is often hard to sympathise with, her behaviour as a woman and particularly as a mother makes it hard for us to like her. In time Olga faces up to an entirely new view of Mario starting to see him through the eyes of others, she is surprised at what she finds.

“What a mistake, above all, it had been to believe that I couldn’t live without him, when for a long time I had not been at all certain that I was alive with him.”

I am looking forward to discussing this with my book group there is in this slight novel much to talk about. I can’t help but wonder about the anger which oozes from this novel, where it might have come from – and whether the story of Olga is that of the author about whom we know so little. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Jul 3, 2016 |
not my cup of tea 2 hrs into the book on tape just feels like a very long lamentation. very realistic but too depressing to read for me. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jun 12, 2016 |
I find it difficult to suss out my feelings on this book. Elena Ferrante's writing deserves a 4 or 5 star review. She paints an aggravated view of an "abandoned" woman and the pain and torment that begins to unravel her life - not just how to cope with the sudden change in her family, but her very existence. I truly felt the struggle come alive through the words on the page.

However, much of the middle seemed to drag for me. There was too much (in my mind) repetition. Although much shorter than My Brilliant Friend, I found it a harder book to focus on. Perhaps much of this is on purpose, as a book about a crisis of abandonment should not necessarily be a pleasant read.

For someone more drawn to the subject matter, this is probably at least a 4 star book. ( )
  thomnottom | Apr 21, 2016 |
What an awful book this is! One long, illogical rant from beginning to end. Did Ferrante expect the reader to feel an sympathy for the rejected Olga? There was certainly potential for that but the way she subsequently neglects her children and dying dog, seemingly forgetting about them and then simply washing the make-up off her daughter’s face seems to be more excerpts from a nightmare.

And the translation or the original seems to lack coherence, the result of more than just the run-on sentences such as ‘Slowly the voice of Ilaria returned, calling me, immediately afterward Gianni’s joined it’ as there are ones that just don’t make sense like this one: ‘When my eyes dried and the last sobs died in my breast, I realized that Mario had become again the good man he had perhaps always been, I no longer loved him’.

The book as a whole just seems to be one loud, repetitive, self-absorbed, negligent outpouring, offering the reader ‘sound and fury but signifying nothing’. How can interest be sustained in someone who says ‘The dog had fallen through a hole in the net of events. We leave so many of them, lacerations of negligence, when we put together cause and effect. The essential thing was that the string, the weave that now supported me, should hold’.

No doubt some abandoned women would go through the phases Olga goes through and perhaps a psychologist might be inclined to give this to a patient suffering from separation so that she can see her reactions are normal but for the average reader this book has very little to offer. ( )
  evening | Apr 2, 2016 |
One of the more interesting books I've read recently - meant in a nice way! Ferrante describes one woman's reaction to being suddenly dumped by her husband of 15 years. Sure, some of the episodes are quite bizarre, but in that circumstance I can imagine people behaving in a highly unusual manner. At times, however, I found her behaviour a little too strange to be able to relate to, even given the personally stressful situation. ( )
  oldblack | Jan 28, 2016 |
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Elena Ferranteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldstein, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.
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Doggone! Husband gone;
But not dead, just strayed and lost;
Getting used to it.
(pickupsticks)

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Once an aspiring writer, Olga traded literary ambition for marriage and motherhood; when Mario dumps her after 15 years, she is utterly unprepared. Though she tells herself that she is a competent woman, nothing like the poverella (poor abandoned wife) that mothers whispered about in her childhood, Olga falls completely apart. Routine chores overwhelm her; she neglects her appearance and forgets her manners; she throws herself at the older musician downstairs; she sees the poverella's ghost. After months of self-pity, anger, doubt, fury, desperation and near madness, her acknowledgments of weaknesses in the marriage feel as earned as they are unsurprising.… (more)

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