Books on GIF #33 — 'The Days of Abandonment' by Elena Ferrante


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'The Days of Abandonment' by Elena Ferrante.


This is a book about a woman abandoned by her husband and her journey through grief, confusion and rage. Lots and lots of rage.

Olga's husband tells her one day that he's leaving her. Just like that, out of the clear blue. She's left to fend for herself and to care for their two bratty children and his German shepherd — who's actually the true victim in the book and perhaps the only sympathetic character.

Olga's downward spiral/psychotic break is violent, traumatic and bizarre.

She accidentally puts broken glass in her husband's pasta, for example. (Or was it an accident?)

She lashes out at random people on the street, the sorta nice man who lives downstairs (whom she sexually manipulates), her own children and the dog. When she sees her husband and his new, younger lover on the street, she physically assaults him and hurls all sorts of insults and threats.

Donna and I both read this book, and we had the same reaction to Olga: While you could empathize with her plight, she is not a sympathetic character. Neither are her children: a boy and a girl. Even though you could completely understand the pain and confusion they were feeling, they were still annoying.

But I think that's part of what makes this a great book. Real people, like these characters, are flawed, and in a breakup, no one is completely guilty or innocent. No one is completely the hero or villain. So, while this book is not on the same level as Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels, it still shows her incredible ability to write beautiful and intense fiction as if it is a memoir, or something that is happening in front of her and she is just writing it down. So vivid and real it feels that you sometimes have to ask:

If you prefer your revenge served hot and your characters flawed and complex, you should read this book.

My rating:

'The Days of Abandonment'('I giorni dell'abbandono')by Elena Ferrante was published in 2002 by Edizioni e/o. It was published in English in 2005 by Europe Editions. Translated by Ann Goldstein. 188 pages.

What's next?In the coming weeks I'll review 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith, 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara and 'Gilead' by Marilynne Robinson, among others.

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Thanks for reading!*


* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!