Sunday, October 2, 2016

THE LOST DAUGHTER by Elena Ferrante

Leda’s two grown daughters have moved to Toronto to live with their father, and Leda is feeling surprisingly unburdened.  While at the beach on vacation, she encounters a beautiful young woman, Nina, with her small daughter Elena and a bunch of extended family members.  This is a very short novel, dark and full of shocking revelations, and I don’t want to give too much away.  Some of the revelations come up in conversation, and at first I wondered if Leda was making stuff up.  Suffice it to say that this novel is about two women for whom motherhood is not all sweetness and light.  They both try to maintain their responsibilities to their children while retaining some sense of self, with limited success.  In fact, they lean so far in the selfishness direction that they risk more than just a few raised eyebrows from family and friends in response to their actions.  Leda readily admits that she can’t really explain why she’s done some of the things she’s done, while Nina seems to be stuck in an unhappy marriage.  Nina may be somewhat obscure, but Leda is the real enigma here, though.  She struck me as just being in an eternally bad mood, doing mean things for no apparent reason.  Even though, she’s the narrator, I never quite figured out what made her tick.  She illuminates one small piece of the puzzle late in the novel, which just left me even more puzzled than ever.  And who is The Lost Daughter?  Leda does enlighten us a bit about her own childhood, and I assume that she is the title character, for she is indeed lost, in many ways, but especially to herself, as exemplified by her inability to explain her own behavior.

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