Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Lost Daughter; Elena Ferrante

Title: The Lost Daughter
Author: Elena Ferrante
Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Europa Editions
Edition: trade softcover
Source: personal collection
Location: Italy 
Date Completed: 8/20/2011 
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes
When I posted the intro to this book on Tuesday, several bloggers mentioned that the cover seemed creepy. Well let me just say, now that I've completed this book, the doll on the cover image is significant to the story, which is somewhat creepy as well.  That being said, I enjoyed this very different book, and think many of you might as well.

Leda is a 47 year-old divorced woman, and mother to daughters, Bianca and Marta, now 22 and 24. The girls have recently moved from Italy to Toronto, Canada to live with their father.  Leda is well educated and teaches at the university in Florence, Italy.  Leda was not upset when her daughters moved away, in fact it was quite the opposite:
"When my daughters moved to Toronto, where their father had lived and worked for years, I was embarrassed and amazed to discover that I wasn't upset; rather, I felt light, as if only then had I definitively brought them into the world. For the first time in almost twenty-five years I was not aware of the anxiety of having to take care of them. The house was neat, as if no one lived there, I no longer had the constant bother of shopping and doing the laundry, the woman who for years had helped with the household chores found a better paying job, and I felt no need to replace her."
It's summer and since she is feeling happy about her new freedom, Leda decides to rent a beach house for six weeks, on the Ionian coast, near Naples.  She packs her books and lesson plans for the coming school year and is planning to relax by lounging on the beach by day.

Early on she becomes fascinated by the interactions of an attractive young mother named Nina, and her young daughter, Elena. She also intently watches little Elena's interactions with her doll, which the girl calls by several different names.  Several other family members visit the family on the beach as well. One day Leda notices the child by the waters edge,  so she returns her to her mother who was lying on the beach blanket and hadn't noticed the child  had wandered to the water.  Another day when the family leaves the beach for the day, Leda notices that Elena's beloved doll was left buried in the sand. This incident upsets Leda, and suddenly this event, along with the interactions of mother and child, opens a floodgate of memories for Leda of her own days as a young mother.  Some of the incidents which she recalls of things she did, and ways she reacted to her own daughters --were cringe-worthy.

This brief novella, just 124 pages, is sure to evoke emotions among readers, especially mothers. Narrated in the first person, this deep journey into a mother's psyche, gives the reader plenty to think about. Marriage,  motherhood, personal freedom, sacrifice and career fulfillment are some of the conflicting issues that surface in this work.

Initially, I thought I might have a problem with the flow of the story due to the translation, but that was not the case. Once I got into the rhythm and into what was going on in Leda's head, I was hooked. I liked this one a lot, and would definitely recommend it.


  1. The cover is kind of interesting creepy, not creepy creepy. A short read might be good!

  2. Glad you enjoyed this book. I figured the cover had something to do with the story.

  3. It seems like the cover fits the book very well … and your review has me intrigued to read the book.

  4. I actually think the cover is kinda funny! The book sounds pretty thought provoking. Might be one worth suggesting to my book club.

  5. Thank you for an interesting review. I think most of us have something cringeworthy in our background so I can empathize with the mother in the story!

  6. I also don't know what to make of that naked little tooshie on the cover, but the book sounds intriguing to me. Something about the cringe-worthiness of motherhood really piques my interest in this one. Off to add this to my list right away!

  7. I agree that the cover is a bit creepy, but creepy isn't always bad. I also love short reads right now and will be looking for this one!

  8. That cover is definitely eye-catching and considering that it's significant to the story it is intriguing me. This sounds like an interesting story and that it is also short, sounds like one that could work for me.

  9. Yes, that cover does look creepy but the book sounds like it's worth a read. And I do like those Europa books. On the list it goes.

  10. Another great review - I'm adding this book to my TBR list.

    This is my kind of book, I can't say I no longer worry about my son but with him living 1000 miles away I have learned to not worry about the day to day stuff. I understand the sentiment of the first paragraph.

  11. I've been on a novella kick lately, so am adding this to my list. Thanks!

  12. Now I want to find out why the doll in the sand upset Leda. Great review!


  13. This story sounds interesting and not totally flattering commentary on Leda when you combine two things: her memories of some of the things she did as a young mother being cringe-worthy and then her sense of relief when her daughters move to Canada. Yet she's upset by Nina's failure to watch over Elena and then the abandonment of Elena's doll so we know she has a conscious. I'm definitely ptting this book on my list! Thank you Diane!

  14. That is a sort of creepy cover. It does sound like an interesting read. It sounds like a good book to read and discuss.

  15. The cover actually intrigues me rather than creeps me out! I love reading reviews for Europa books.

  16. You know what else is creepy? The author's name is the same as the young girl's!

  17. This sounds really great, I love stories about mothering that are insightful rather than saccharine. I do find that cover disconcerting, but hearing that it's relevant to the story makes it less so - another one for my ever growing TBR list!

  18. I would have probably overlooked this novella, but I love your review. The memories flashbacks sounds like my type of story. Adding it to my TBR list.


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