Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment

I keep making the mistake of reading a good book, deciding that I would like to write a blog post about it, but then not… I have a pile of books that I read during my last reading sprint, and I’d love to share them with you, but unfortunately the details are beginning to turn into distant memories at this point. Even so, I feel compelled to give it a shot with at least one of my favorites and then try to be better next time. And, Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment is the perfect book for this because the novel was so intense, so raw – it was a lot harder to shake than some of my other choices.

Elena Ferrante is one of those writers who just doesn’t hold back. She isn’t shy about vomiting forth beautiful, terrible, messy, exhausting, elegant, painful, human tragedy. Her writing is truthful and intimate. It has this magnetic attraction that you simply cannot escape, regardless of how painful the content. She leads her readers on a journey inside of their own emotions and senses, before spitting them back out – not broken, but different nonetheless. You simply cannot leave her novels as the same person you were when you began. She makes sure of that.

The Days of Abandonment details the complex emotions that a mother of two deals with after her husband leaves her for another woman. Ferrante depicts this woman’s raw emotion in such a convincing, upsetting manner, that it seems only possible that she has been through this experience herself. Her rendering of the woman’s devastation is almost too painful to read, but too difficult to look away from at the same time. Reading this book feels so intimate, so wrong – as though I have stumbled upon this woman’s diary, and I am reading it as quickly as I can because she may walk in the door at any moment. Beyond my perceived guilt, I feel as though I could be reading my own diary. It feels too real to be made up. I have become so entangled in Ferrante’s world, that I can no longer distinguish fiction from reality. She has ensnared me, tortured me, and now she won’t let me leave.  I must accept the possibility that I will never me the same.

This is the magic of Ferrante’s writing. It is so human, so revealing, so internal, so perceptive. She doesn’t resort to cheery optimism and inspirational messages. Her writing is believable. It acknowledges what is ugly about humans. It pays homage to the worst human moments when self-loathing takes over and “love yourself” slogans just aren’t going to cut it. It carries a reminder that life isn’t always happy, and that people aren’t always successful. It is a refreshing rendering of a world that has been covered by the façade of social media personalities and Instagram photos. Sometimes life sucks, and that’s okay. Ferrante finds a way to celebrate this reality by reminding us how ugly and necessary it is.

I feel like I could write so much more, but I think it is best to leave it as is. Please let me know what your favorite Elena Ferrante book is – I’d love to read some more!

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