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De verborgen dochter by Elena Ferrante
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De verborgen dochter (original 2006; edition 2008)

by Elena Ferrante

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3161752,162 (3.7)19
Member:gust
Title:De verborgen dochter
Authors:Elena Ferrante
Info:Amsterdam Wereldbibliotheek cop. 2008
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:literatuur, roman, italië, Liv, 19

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The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (2006)

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» See also 19 mentions

English (13)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
At the core of THE LOST DAUGHTER is the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters. Fathers and sons orbit out in the periphery, but it is the female bond that is reflected upon and examined. Leda, a well-to-do university professor takes a seaside rental for a few weeks of relaxation. Her two adult daughters live with her ex-husband, their father, in Canada. While at the beach, Leda encounters a large, brusque, self-centered Neapolitan family and forms a strange attachment to them. Leda, herself, grew up in rough poverty in Naples, and wanted nothing more than to escape. For her, this family, especially its female members, represents her life as it could have been, and she reflects on this repeatedly over the course of the story.

One of the Neapolitan women has a young daughter, and this daughter loves her doll. She creates loving nicknames for it, and carries it with her as though it is her own child. When she loses the doll at the beach, it affects her so deeply that she regresses toward babyhood - wanting a pacifier and constantly riding in a stroller or being carried everywhere. She cannot function without her "daughter" doll. She is lost without being able to mother the doll. Leda, on being separated from her daughters, finds a sense of calm and peace rather than great sorrow. She is confident and liberated. She viewed them, especially her younger daughter, as a kind of parasite that fed off of her mind and body yet gave nothing back in return. It's not as though Leda doesn't love her children; she feels such complex and complicated emotions about them, and about motherhood itself.

The women in the Neapolitan family represent more traditional and socially-accepted traditions of motherhood. One is pregnant with her first child, while the other is the aforementioned young girl's mother. When Leda and this woman chat about motherhood, the Neapolitan is shocked to learn about Leda's true feelings. She assumed that Leda was a doting and affectionate mother, with good breeding and parenting skills. She began the conversation viewing Leda as a sophisticated and cultured woman, but ends up attacking her before swearing off any further contact. In this instant, it is clear to Leda that she is in some ways very much of her birthplace, but in so many other ways she is a foreigner to it. Her non-traditional approach toward and feelings about motherhood are foreign and frightening to the native Neapolitans. Even if she wanted to claim that place within herself, she could never go home again.

The title refers not only to the child's missing doll, but to Leda herself. She is a daughter who was lost to her family because of her education and ambition, which took her away from Naples. Her family never had to go searching for her, but she was lost to them and their way of life. I would highly recommend this book to any woman who has a relationship with her mother, good/bad/otherwise, and/or who has a daughter of her own. There are so many things to reflect upon here, that anyone with maternal experiences will be able to relate and make meaning from THE LOST DAUGHTER. ( )
  BooksForYears | Jun 27, 2017 |
Leda, a 47 year old Italian academic of English literature, decides to take a beach-based holiday. There she becomes enthralled by a striking young woman, Nina, and her close, easy relationship with her young daughter, Elena. In a bizarre, callous decision, Leda decides to steal Elena's beloved doll. The young girl is devastated and her relationship with her mother becomes fractious. Leda considers giving the doll back, but delays and delays, until, when she has Nina's greatest trust, she betrays it by returning the doll. There really isn't much more plot than this, in this novel, slight in words, but very weighty in layers.

The main content of this novel has little to do with the above, and everything to do with trying to be both a mother and a successful career woman in Italian society. Perhaps this novel is more relevant in someone of Leda's generation compared to now, but I would imagine that parts of the novel will heavily resonate with every mother who also strives for a career. Leda had a very difficult relationship with her own mother, and the scars from the reverberate to her own two daughters. Eventually, about 6 years into motherhood, she gives up for a few years, leaves them entirely with their father, and concentrates on her career instead. This creates a period of strained happiness - her career is going well, she is in love with a new man, but there is a hollowness inside where he daughters used to be.

Now, in this backward little seaside town, free of her daughters, free of everything from her past, in some sense, she can explore the conflicts that strained her so keenly in earlier years. Nina and Elena become distorted mirrors to her own lives. And, perhaps, she takes the doll as a cold experiment to test how mothers generally can cope with the bad as well as the good. Or maybe she just wants to show this mother she secretly envies how bad motherhood can be? Or instead is the doll her way of reconnecting with when she started being a mother, of trying to resurrect the tender, loving feelings she had? There are so many ways to interpret this novel, so many layers and ambiguities that its richness is almost dizzying.

What's also clear through all the writing is the bravery of the psychological dissections - Ferrante never shies away from fully airing what many mothers secretly think and feel, but would never admit even to their husbands or mothers - that, on occasion, they hate their children, and wish they weren't around, that the life such children suck out of them is unbelievably draining and robs them of their own dreams.

In this way it is a relentless, brutal novel, and psychologically so intense, almost written by a female Dostoyevsky. It is compelling reading and fascinating for its stark honesty. ( )
  RachDan | Feb 23, 2017 |
This feels like a rehearsal for the Neapolitan Novels, it's pretty short, but covers a lot of similar themes - the conflict between being a mother and having a career, the difficulty of maintaining relationships, the importance of dolls. It's pretty slight in comparison but i enjoyed it as a quick read. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jan 23, 2017 |
An academic (translator of literature) goes to a beach town in Naples for vacation after her grown daughters have moved to Canada to live with their father. She becomes enamored of a Neapolitan family, especially a young mother (wife of a fierce old Godfather-like man) and her daughter, who loses a doll, which the narrator finds and keeps for reasons she cannot explain. A ruminative and thoughtful lyric story about the divide between self and motherhood, sacrifice, and love. ( )
  sungene | Jul 12, 2016 |
Very interesting book that preceded the four My Brilliant Friend series but with the same themes: almost obsessive female friendship, a beach, a doll. My theory is that all of this is disguised autobiography and that her brilliant friend really exists, or existed, and she's writing and writing to try to find her. ( )
  bobbieharv | Jun 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
added by ozzer | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (Jan 21, 2013)
 
Freedom versus responsibility: This tension underlies Leda’s behavior and ambivalence toward her daughters, which continues to the present. The young mother Nina is Leda’s sounding-board, but Ferrante fails to integrate Leda’s soul-searching with the problems of the fractious Neapolitan family on the beach.
added by ScattershotSteph | editKirkus Reviews (May 20, 2010)
 
Although much of the drama takes place in her head, Ferrante’s gift for psychological horror renders it immediate and visceral, as when the narrator recalls the “animal opacity” with which she first longed for a child, before she was devoured by pregnancy.
added by ScattershotSteph | editThe New Yorker (Jun 9, 2008)
 
One hallmark of Ferrante's writing here, as in "Days of Abandonment" and other works, is how she skillfully peels back the mask of "normalcy" and conjures the sensations of being in a living nightmare.
 
Ferrante’s prose is stunningly candid, direct and unforgettable. From simple elements, she builds a powerful tale of hope and regret.
added by ScattershotSteph | editPublishers Weekly (Mar 10, 2008)
 

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Ferrante, Elenaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldstein, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I had been driving for less than an hour when I began to feel ill.
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Wat dom om te denken dat je je kinderen iets over jezelf kunt vertellen voordat ze minstens vijftig zijn. Jezelf wijs te maken dat je als een mens en niet als een functie door ze wordt gezien.
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Leda, a middle-aged divorcee, is alone for the first time in years when her daughters leave home to live with their father. Feeling slightly embarrassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday in a small coastal town in southern Italy, but after a few days of calm and quiet, things begin to take a menacing turn. Leda is overwhelmed by memories of the difficult and unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family.… (more)

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