Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment

My Goodreads review starts like this:

This book is amazing because Ferrante is amazing. I love the way she gets into the characters’ heads and tells these gripping stories that are basically just psychological. The action in the story is relational – it is about a woman whose husband leaves her, and the aftermath. I had the feeling that I was actually suffering with her – that I was getting woozy when she was losing it. And yet, at the end, there is a redeeming compassion that I also love.

This is a short review, just to mark that I have finished it, because it is from my 2015 to-do list.

That’s probably enough, although going forward I will hopefully write more insightful or literary book reviews (or not – either is fine, I suppose).

On to the quotes, which are basically my favorite part of reading. I love collecting quotes and sentences. These in particular will show you the depth of feeling in the book.

I like this sentence, which shows the conversational tone the narration takes:

“I don’t know exactly what he said. If I have to be honest, I think that he mentioned only the fact that, when you live with someone, sleep in the same bed, the body of the other becomes like a clock, ‘a meter,’ he said — he used just that expression – ‘a meter of life, which runs along leaving a wake of anguish.'” (40)

In this quote, she is using deliberately maternal language to describe how she supported her husband through his studies and into his professional life:

“I had taken away my own time and added it to his to make him more powerful. … I had disappeared into his minutes, into his hours, so that he could concentrate. … And now, now he had left me, carrying off, abruptly, all that time, all that energy, all that effort I had given him, to enjoy its fruits with someone else, a stranger who had not lifted a finger to bear him and rear him and make him become what he had become.” (63)

One of my favourite things about this book is the way that the narrator begins to understand that her relationship with her husband was juvenile, in essence, and required her to be girl-like. She has an epiphany about what it means to be adult:

“For Mario I — I shuddered — had never been Olga. The meanings, the meaning of her life — I suddenly understood — were only a dazzlement of late adolescence, my illusion of stability. starting now, if I wanted to make it, I had to trust myself to those two profiles, to their strangeness rather than to their familiarity, and moving on from there very slowly restore confidence in myself, make myself adult.” (124)

And here’s a great couple of sentences from the near-end, which doesn’t really contain a spoiler, but of course feel free to skip this if you want to read the book for yourself:

“I wanted to be me. If that formulation even made sense. Or at least I wanted to see what remained of me, once he was removed.” (183)

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