Book Cover
Rate this book
5 stars
9,340 (21%)
4 stars
17,588 (41%)
3 stars
11,563 (27%)
2 stars
3,217 (7%)
1 star
984 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,542 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer.
713 reviews37 followers
April 14, 2009
This is going to sound strange -- I loved this book, but I didn't enjoy it. The story involves a mother of grown daughters who is dealing with her own ambivalence at what she gave up to assume that role. The author manages to take the flicker of lost independence that every mother feels and magnify it and state it in a brutal and unflinching way. I hated the narrator, but I couldn't look away.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
969 reviews6,869 followers
August 1, 2023
A child, yes, is a vortex of anxieties.

A vacation at a blissful Italian beach under the sun seems an unlikely setting for a dark, psychological tale of familial abuse and wrestling with your inner demons, but Elena Ferrante excels in The Lost Daughter at pulling back the curtains on comforting ideas to expose a darkness lurking underneath. This is a gripping look at the dark side of motherhood, with a portent plot that builds such a tension you feel might tear you to pieces, not unlike the inner tensions that undid the narrator, middle aged Leda, when she was a young mother. Ferrante looks at the ways homelife and a career can tug someone in opposite directions and strain them emotionally, but more importantly she examines how giving oneself to the care of others might make you feel you are disappearing and suddenly want yourself all back. The Lost Daughter elusively twists through the timeline as it juxtaposes mothers and daughters and Ferrante delivers a dark, gritty, and very psychological exposition about struggling to live up to maternal norms and the abuse we can bestow upon one another.

When had Nina chosen me, on the beach. How had I entered her life. By pushes and shoves, certainly; chaotically.

The novella (it tops out at 140 pages) begins as Leda, her daughters grown and out of the house to live near their father, finds herself living her best life. Feeling rejuvenated and free, she takes a month-long vacation to spend time at the beach before she will return to her university position at the start of term (I was quite charmed to read she was planning to teach the Strachey’s Olivia). There she observes Nina, a young mother playing with her daughter Elena, and Elena’s doll, which sparks memories of her own children. After Elena briefly goes missing, Leda begins to spiral into assessing her transgressions and actions as a mother and in a moment bursting with psychological implications, steals Elena’s doll.

What works best about this book is how Ferrante manages to unpack a multitude of themes and ideas so succinctly, carefully balancing a minimum amount of examination to its maximum effect. Nothing feels excess and singular moments imply more than an isolated incident. As when Leda’s daughters criticize her behavior saying that ‘the unspoken says more than the spoken,’ Ferrante allows vagueness to enhance the tension and feelings of uneasiness. Nina’s husband and his family, for example, are described as hard and cold people with the only mention of their livelihoods coming from the beach attendant who says they are simply ‘bad people.’ While it is hinted there is a mafia angle, not knowing for sure has a stronger effect of unease than knowing, which would ultimately be unnecessary in this tightly-wound story. Ferrante has a very unique cadence to her writing (wonderfully translated here by Ann Goldstein) that enhances the sense of unease.

I looked at her in terror, how far could I go, I frightened myself.

How often we re-examine our lives and see our actions differently when they aren’t drenched in the emotion of the moment. ‘The hardest things to talk about are the ones we ourselves can't understand,’ Ferrante writes in the opening pages, and even when questioned about motherhood, Leda finds she has ‘composed my answers to [Nina’s] anxious questions as exercises in reticence.’ There is a sharp critique of the expectations of mothers in society, particularly with implications of self-sacrifice. ‘I suspected she was playing her role of beautiful young mother not for love of her daughter,’ Leda thinks watching Nina with her daughter, ‘but for us, the crowd on the beach.’ It is a performance, playing the role of a mother, much like the role Leda found she either couldn’t, or was unwilling, to commit to and the shame imposed upon her because of it. ‘[O]ne wants a child with the animal opacity reinforced by popular beliefs,’ Leda thinks, and it is a role women are shoved into or assumed they must shoulder even if they do not think themselves right for the role or would rather retain themselves than give themself away to others as Leda felt.

Everything in those years seemed to me without remedy, I was without remedy.

Not that this forgives Leda for her actions, as we learn she treated her children with disdain and violence, often lashing out or striking them in ways that were ‘not a possibly educational act but real violence, contained but real,’ but Ferrante shows that it is still something important to examine. ‘What had I done that was so terrible, in the end,’ Leda thinks, and Ferrante keeps the reader cloistered in her head so we only view her memories through her rationalizations of them. ‘I was overwhelmed by myself. I, I, I: I am this, I can do this, I must do this,’ she thinks, fully admitting she was thinking of restoring herself to herself when she abandoned her children for 3 years and each confrontation with her past is met with her reasoning for it.
I had been a girl who felt lost, this was true. All the hopes of youth seemed to have been destroyed, I seemed to be falling backwards towards my mother, my grandmother, the chain of mute or angry women I came from. Missed opportunities.

This is mirrored in Nina, who confesses feeling similarly, which evokes sympathy and a desire to help in Leda.
I know nothing and I'm worth nothing. I got pregnant, I gave birth to a daughter, and I don't even know how I'm made inside. The only true thing I want is to escape.

Escape seems to be a major theme in this book, such as Leda wanting to escape the legacy of abusive mothers that she sees in looking back through family history (her daughters, too, wanting to be different than their mother for the same reason), wanting to escape the town of her childhood, Nina wanting to escape a sinister husband, and wanting to escape becoming merely a function of motherhood in place of a Self. Leda wants from her daughters ‘to be seen by them as a person and not as a function,’ only feeling herself again when they are away from her. When she cares for the stolen doll, she is able to perform a motherly function such as dressing it and cleaning it without having to actually give anything of herself.

Ferrante’s character analysis is quite brilliant here, relying on their juxtapositions to define multiple characters with the same brushstroke. Nina and Leda serve as excellent foil characters, though Leda also identifies with both Elena and the doll as well. ‘You keep your liquid darkness in your stomach,’ she thinks when pouring the dirty beach water from the doll, identifying with it as ‘I, too, was hiding many dark things, in silence.’ She observes that Elena has regressed due to the sadness over losing her doll, but finds she too is regressing both emotionally and physically when she measures and weighs herself: ‘Among my most dreaded fantasies was the idea that I could get smaller, go back to being adolescent, child, condemned to relive those phases of my life.’ And despite her hatred of her mother, she finds herself falling into the same patterns of abuse, except worrying she is worse since her mother ‘never left us, despite crying that she would; I, on the other hand, left my daughters almost without announcing it.’ Her own daughters, it seems, are likely to get trapped in a similar fate as Leda fixates on how much her daughter’s seem to wish to identify themselves apart from their mother and her actions.

The Lost Daughter is a dark, gritty and rather uncomfortable novel that is undeniably gripping and intelligent. It packs a lot for such a short book. Ferrante ends it with quite the shock, and the commentary on abuse seems to be one not of redemption but simply acknowledging it is a problem before it is too late. This was my first Ferrante and I am disappointed in myself for not reading her sooner because I was instantly hooked and plan on devouring book after book by her now. This hits hard and while it may leave you feeling ugly inside, you’ll still want to thank Ferrante for it.


The moment arrives when your children say to you with unhappy rage, why did you give me life.
Profile Image for emma.
1,871 reviews54.8k followers
September 23, 2023
in my ferrante era:

i'm spending my time reflecting on what it means to be a woman and mentally disintegrating because of it.

this is a book i really liked and a book i hated reading. it's precise in its observations and cruel and calculated in making you feel the embarrassment and anxiety and self-questioning of its characters.

it's ferrante!

bottom line: a tough read, intentionally.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,196 reviews1,819 followers
December 24, 2022

Olivia Colman è Leda, la protagonista del film scritto (premio al Festival di Venezia 2021) e diretto da Maggie Gyllenhaal

Qualche giorno fa ho letto queste parole che mi hanno fatto pensare a Elena Ferrante.
In particolare a questo romanzo, che è il suo libro che preferisco.

Il lavoro di uno scrittore è quello di dire le cose che si suppone non si debbano dire, di aiutarci a tornare allo stato iniziale, alle emozioni più primitive e assolute che abbiamo vissuto da bambino. Uno scrittore deve scavare in quei sentimenti che vorremmo non avere. Abbiamo sentimenti diversi e uno scrittore deve restituirceli e restituirci a essi, in modo veritiero.

Jessie Buckley è Leda da giovane.

In quale altro modo un lettore troverà ciò di cui ha bisogno, quando prende in mano un libro? E di cosa si ha bisogno quando si prende in mano un libro?
Si ha bisogno di qualcosa di sincero, di qualcosa che rammenti, che insegni di nuovo, così da tornare a sapere che cosa si prova davvero.
E oltre a ciò, si ha bisogno di aiuto per comprendere che cosa si prova a essere un’altra persona. Per noi sarebbe facile restare belli comodi all’interno del nostro punto di vista individuale. Ci è familiare. È il nostro. È noi. Ma questo significa non doversi assumere la responsabilità degli altri, perché gli altri non sono del tutti reali per noi. Senza questo, la nostra empatia si appiattirebbe, o non esisterebbe. Non è necessario guardare lontano per rendersi conto di ciò che accade in questo mondo, quando la nostra capacità di essere empatici scompare.

Dakota Johnson è Nina, la madre della bimba che perde la bambola. O alla quale Leda ruba la bambola?.

Io voglio aiutare le persone a capire un po' meglio le loro madri e i loro padri o i loro vicini di casa o le persone dalla pelle di colore diverso o di religione diversa. Voglio dare al lettore — fosse pure per un istante — una prospettiva più ampia del mondo, così che possa sentirsi più grande e non più piccolo, come così tante persone tendono a fare.

Foto di scena, Maggie Gyllenhaal dirige una scena del film.

E a questo punto vorrei aggiungere che — per me — una delle gioie della scrittura è che quando scrivo non giudico i miei personaggi. Altri li giudicheranno, forse, e sta bene. Ma i miei personaggi sono completamente liberi dal mio giudizio. Lascio che si comportino male quanto vogliono, e che siano ciò che sono. Lascio che si amino, in modo imperfetto, come noi tutti amiamo in modo imperfetto. A me interessa soltanto raccontare tutti i livelli diversi ai quali vivono le persone, perché noi viviamo tutti a livelli diversi. Non mi interessa il bene o il male, materia del melodramma. Ciò che mi sta a cuore sono le innumerevoli grinze che abbiamo dentro, le pieghe della nostra anima. A me interessa far sì che capiamo chi siamo.
Così facendo, la mia speranza è che, per tutto il tempo in cui il lettore si trova nel mondo dei miei libri, magari non si senta così solo.

Quando mia figlia era bambina, amava tantissimo i suoi pupazzi di peluche. Un giorno mi ha accompagnato in camera sua tenendomi per mano con la sua manina umida. Aveva allineato tutti i suoi peluche in fila. Mi ha guardato con orgoglio e mi ha detto: «Questi sono i miei amici ».
Ho ripensato spesso a quelle sue parole. Esprimono ciò che io sento nei confronti di tutti i personaggi inventati che mi hanno osservata nelle varie fasi della mia vita. Sono personaggi che ci perdonano mentre noi perdoniamo loro.
Questi sono i nostri amici. Noi abbiamo bisogno di loro, perché la vita, in qualche caso, comporta grande solitudine.

Ancora Maggie Gyllenhaal regista al lavoro.

Sono parole di un’altra scrittrice.
Una scrittrice che ammira e apprezza molto le opere di Elena Ferrante.
Sono parole di Elizabeth Strout.

Maggie Gyllenhaal ha preso questo libro e realizzato un magnifico film, il suo esordio alla regia e alla scrittura per il grande schermo. Anche se probabilmente, visti i tempi, di grandi schermi questo bel film ne vedrà pochi, solo quelli dei festival, e perlopiù si vedrà a casa su schermo di formato minore. Maggie ha messo insieme un cast magnifico e fatto brillare tre performance sopra tutte le altre: quella di Olivia Colman/Leda, quella di Jessie Buckley/Leda da giovane e quella di Dakota Johnson/Nina, madre della ragazzina che smarrisce la bambola. Accanto a queste tre magnifiche attrici ci sono Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal, perfino Alba Rohrwacher, ecc. La storia è trasferita dal sud Italia su un’isola greca, e la delizia dello spettatore + assicurata da una regia e una scrittura in stato di grazia.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in una sua più che notevole interpretazione nel bel film “The Kindergarten Teacher – Lontano da qui” remake dell'omonimo film israeliano.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews623 followers
August 24, 2019
It’s been awhile since I read - and ‘obsessively’ enjoyed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. ( especially loved book 2 and 3).....
I went into this book completely blind!!
It’s a ‘thin-slim’......’thick-thought’-provoking novella.

I was immediately pulled in from the ‘get-go’ with these words:
“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 definitely 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 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”.

We meet divorced 47 year old Leda. She’s an English Professor.
Summer vacation is just beginning.
Leda feels lighter being completely alone without her two young adult daughters living with her. She calls her daughters on the phone once a day - but is surprisingly ecstatic to be alone.
Leda quickly
becomes physically lighter, eating only one meal a day.
She rents a summer beach house for a six week summer vacation near Naples.... bringing her school books to prepare assignments for when the fall term begins.
Ok.. sounds good - a nice summer-break- beach vacation....⛱...
not so fast...,,
Things become odd - puzzling- mysterious- haunting- and down right creepy!

Leda meets a young family also vacationing at the same beach.
She is fixated with another young mother (Nina), her child ( Elena) and Elena’s doll.
From Leda’s observations - judgements - projections and evaluations of the mother/daughter relationship between Nina & Elena....
Leda’s behavior becomes disturbing. Her choices mysteriously disturbing!
Leda’s inner reflective voice...dialogue with herself is intriguing....and unsettling.

Leda’s memories surface from her own younger days: as a daughter, wife, mother, and lover.
Regrets are heightened.... and an almost Stream of consciousness unfolds.

What emerges is quite dark ...
seriously haunting!

The self-assessment Leda has with herself is conflicting- sad - and psychologically complex.

A very unsettling novel... hard to feel sympathetic for Leda.....yet Elena Ferrante’s writing is gripping.

Rather than leaving this novel with the satisfaction of an insightful resolution-
I’m left with the bare-bone-reality of how devastating and brutally life-altering loss is.

Profile Image for Antonia.
255 reviews66 followers
November 10, 2014
After four read books, I can conclude that I experience an unconditional devotion to Ferrante's novels and emphatically place her amongst my favorite authors. I simply admire the frankness and the brutality of her thoughts and celebrate eagerly the woman's manifest in each sentence. Ferrante's struggle is to shatter the assumed, especially in conservative societies, image of the woman - the mother, the wife, the housekeeper. This is the similarity I find in each novel - the endeavor to redeem past presumption for the sake of the womanhood. Elena Ferrante possesses one of the most elegant and precise literary styles I have encountered in contemporary literature.
Profile Image for leah.
311 reviews2,020 followers
July 15, 2022
this little book is really all the proof needed to put those ‘elena ferrante is a man’ conspiracy theories to rest. simply no man could understand the restrictions of femininity or communicate the experience of motherhood/daughterhood like this.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,135 followers
April 13, 2016
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante was out bookclub end of season read.

In this Novella The narrator, a forty-seven-year-old divorcée summering alone on the Ionian coast, becomes obsessed with a beautiful young mother who seems ill at ease with her husband’s rowdy, slightly menacing Neapolitan clan. When this woman’s daughter loses her doll, the older woman commits a small crime that she can’t explain even to herself.

I have to admit I totally struggled with the characters and the plot of this novel. I could not identify with Leda or any of her ideas on motherhood. I found the novel bizarre and while the writing in places was strong the plot and the characters were just too bizarre for my liking.

It didn't generate the discussion as a group we had hoped for.

The book has received great reviews online and once again I am in the minority in my dislike of this one.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,635 followers
March 6, 2020
I loved this short novel from the ever incredible Elena Ferrante. The twisted story of the protagonist who steals a doll on a beach is both captivating and heartbreaking. In typical Ferrante fashion, the narration wanders between the primary narrative of the protagonist's seaside vacation and her memories of her now-moved away daughters. It is a poignant portrait of motherhood and dealing with getting old. A must-read for fans of the Naples tetralogy - for me perhaps her strongest standalone novella.
Profile Image for James.
95 reviews101 followers
March 17, 2022
Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about being a parent, unless you count taking care of a cat. And honestly I'm not even very good at that.

I've always been the gay Uncle (or "Guncle" as a recent popular novel coins it) who gets to do all the "cool" stuff like playing fun games, taking them to movies, going on trips, etc., without the actual hard work or thankless responsibility of enforcing discipline and restrictions and structure. It's always been the perfect arrangement, as far as I'm concerned.

All that's to say I don't think I'm really the ideal or intended reader for this moody psychological thriller about the anguish and ambivalence of being a mother. Yet it's a testament to the exceptional quality of Elena Ferrante's writing that I still found this to be a complex and captivating read.

It helps that I've always had a weakness for unreliable first-person narrators, and here we have one of the best I've read in awhile. Leda is a middle-aged Italian professor whose two daughters, now semi-independent young adults, have recently left her to go live with their father in Canada. To celebrate her newfound freedom, she treats herself to a leisurely summer vacation, where she notices a young mother and her three-year-old daughter playing together on the beach. This triggers a stream-of-consciousness-style series of memories, projections, and deeply conflicted reflections about motherhood.

At a slight 140 pages, this reads more like a gripping short story than a traditional novel. I hope it's not too much of a spoiler to reveal that there's not much of an actual plot. If you go into this expecting a suspenseful mystery or action-packed melodrama, you'll be sorely disappointed. But if you're like me and appreciate a more poetic, meditative read every now and then, I think you'll enjoy this dark, deep dive into one woman's turbulent and tormented state of mind as she reflects on her roles as a woman, wife, daughter, professor, and most importantly, as a mother.

Ferrante explores these themes with a remarkable clarity, candor, and compassion. I can only imagine that anyone reading this as a mother will find it almost unbearably relatable and unsettling, perhaps a little reassuring and comforting, possibly all of the above?

Looking very much forward to checking out the recent Oscar-nominated film adaptation written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal and starring Olivia Coleman.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,084 reviews925 followers
January 4, 2022
Those who read Ferrante's marvellous Neapolitan novels will recognise the style and some of the themes: the rejection of one's roots and birthplace, being an intelligent and ambitious woman who has to deal with the society's constraints and the self-imposed ones; the ambivalence of motherhood with its highs and lows, the drudgery and the occasional exultations; the hot and cold of marital relations, the resentments and so on.

This is brutal and exquisitely complex, while also very simple.

Ferrante slays me like no other writer I've come across.

I shall watch the Netflix adaptation, hopefully, it won't disappoint.

NB: The adaptation is pretty close to the novel. I would have preferred to have Italian actors etc. but Maggie Gyllenhaal did a good job. Colman was excellent.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
464 reviews300 followers
October 12, 2019
This is signature Elena Ferrante, there is no mistaking her writing. She captures the torment of motherhood beautifully. The internal conflict of remaining an individual woman versus the constraints of motherhood. The regrets and remorse that constantly weigh a woman down, that juxtaposition really defines her books. This novel is weird in a good way. The conflicted nature of the main character suffering what I believe to be classic empty nest syndrome tinged with terrible regrets, she encounters a family she becomes slightly obsessed with while holidaying alone, this obsession makes her act in some strange and objectionable ways. It’s weird and wonderful in true Ferrante style. A truly intriguing read.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books818 followers
September 16, 2021
Troubling Love. The Days of Abandonment. The Lost Daughter. Throw these titles up in the air and whichever lands on whichever book, it would fit. (Not the covers, though: each is uniquely apt.) Ferrante's first-person female narrators could almost be the same woman at different stages of life, except for the three being too close in age and possessing different voices. They are creative women with similar Neapolitan mothers, though with different family ties: single, childless Delia, a cartoonist whose job is barely spoken of, comes from an abusive home; writer Olga, deserted by her husband, has two young children; and here it's a slightly older Leda, a divorced English literature professor with two adult daughters.

Maybe I'm getting used to Ferrante, or more likely it's Leda's dispassionate tone, because I didn't find this one as unsettling as the previous two, though its themes (especially the one at its core) are arguably even more provocative. I admired the novel's circularity and its repetition of lost daughters, including a reference to a story called Olivia if I'm correct in believing it's the Italian folktale that Italo Calvino collected under the title of Olive.*

* Please see Heath's comment in message 5 for an Olivia.
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,079 followers
October 18, 2020
This novella starts off reminding me— in terms of the setting only—very much of the longish story “The Beach” in Cesare Pavese‘s The Selected Works, translated by R.W. Flint.

As in the Neapolitan novels, Ferrante again shows in harrowing detail the absolute misery of child rearing. The annoyances, the resentments, the hatreds, to and from both parent and child. It’s like a trap for all involved, a prison. It seems the Italians don’t go in much for psychoanalysis, at least not the characters in Ferrante’s books. But Ferrante knows her characters’ minds, and the truly bizarre scenes they produce. The narrator says:

"For a while I made no distinctions between public areas and private ones, I didn’t care if people heard me and judged me, I felt a strong desire to act out my rage as if in the theater." (p.77)

She is a middle aged woman, a college teacher of English Literature, who begins her story by talking about how liberating it has been for her personally to send her two teenage daughters off to live in Canada with their father, from whom she is bitterly divorced. With regard to another, younger mother whose little girl is throwing a fit at the moment, she says:

"She had tried to see herself in the mirror as she had been before bringing that organism into the world, before condemning herself forever to adding it on to hers. Soon she’ll start yelling, I thought, soon she’ll hit her, trying to break that bond. Instead, the bond will become more twisted, will strengthen in remorse, in the humiliation of having shown herself in public to be an unaffectionate mother, not the mother of church or the Sunday supplements." (p.67)

There’s more.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,397 reviews584 followers
August 5, 2022
Ewww! This is certainly not a 4 star for enjoyment, but in writing ability and emotive core character layered, nearly a 5. Elena Ferrante is absolutely able to conceptualize, feel, display and express dichotomy of want/repulse, love/hate, scattered self-identity and in other general minutia, the Italian culture's brand of personality disordered woman. This one is vilely unlikable. She was to me. She self-describes as "the unnatural Mother".

It's a state of hurt from both generational directions here in full detail of aftermath. Harsh, loud and blunt. Honestly I would only rec this book if you have high interest in extremely unhappy women within the classic dichotomies of psychological self-identity dislike coupled with perpetual dissatisfaction in life and particularly their role fulfillment. Not just in Motherhood, either.

As excellent a writer as Elena Ferrante is, and she IS genius, she tends to write the same type of woman over and over again. Basically that woman (and they are various ages)- spiteful, vengeful and trouble seeking, apt to cheat and intimidate arising from their own dissatisfaction of both mood and insecurities in work and role. Southern Italian culture and the extended familial patterns of male patriarchy with matriarchal role ideals for intense and long patterned nurturing; those are often the stage for her unhappy women. It's what she knows and she can slice the layers to single cell thinness.

This one was a short novella length that exposed this woman's soul, what she believes about herself and her general self-defeating, quite automatic to me, response. It's one that assuredly earns her more separation and "freedom". But the "freedom" tastes like water from her own solitary poisoned well.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,309 followers
January 16, 2022
Elena Ferrante's 3rd novel and the novel she has cited as her most daring. It's slim 130 pages prepared the ground for the epic and magnificent 1700 page My Beautiful Friend.

The set-up is simple: a divorced middle-aged woman with two grown up children is on holiday and becomes intrigued by a young girl and her mid-20s mother she sees on the beach. She initially sees their relationship as an ideal she failed to achieve, before, as she gets to know them better, realising that their issues mirror her own troubled past. For reasons she herself doesn't understand she steals the young girl's precious doll, which the girl treats as her own child.

But the prose and the exploration of the themes, particularly what would drive a mother to abandon her own children, have significant depth.

And as her friendship develops with the young mother she sees her family, with echoes of her own Camorran kin, the very cast that will form the background to Lenu and Lila's friendship in the Neopolitan quarter:

Those people annoyed me. I had been born in a not dissimilar environment, my uncles, my cousins, my father were like that, of a domineering cordiality. They were ceremonious, usually very sociable, very question sounded on their lips like an order barely disguised by a flaw good humour, and if necessary they could be vulgarly insulting and violent.

Recommended - particularly as a taster of Ferrante before immersing in My Beautiful Friend.

Ferrante's own view from La frantumaglia:

Lenu says: "The most difficult things to tell are those which we ourselves cannot understand. "It's the motto - can I call it that - which is at the heart of all my books.

In the book that made me feel most guilty, The Lost Daughter, I pushed the protagonist much farther than I thought I myself, writing, could bear.

The Lost Daughter left me with a feeling the way you do when you swim until you're exhausted and then realise you're too far from the shore.

I still think that the most daring, the most risk-taking book is The Lost Daughter. If I hadn't gone through with that, with great anxiety, I wouldn't have written My Brilliant Friend.

It's no coincidence that when I came to the Neopolitan Quartet I started off again with two dolls and an intense female friendship captured at its beginning.
Profile Image for Chantal.
579 reviews391 followers
December 20, 2022
Not a big favorite but an alright story. It was extremely boring at some points and felt like a dragged out memoir type story.
Profile Image for Marc.
3,110 reviews1,177 followers
November 15, 2021
Even in small novels, little more than a short story actually, Elena Ferrante really excels. It strikes me that her main characters always are very 'complexed': always women who struggle with their self esteem, and so also with what others and society in general expects of them, and who particularly are seized by the relationship to their mothers or to their children. In this story Leda absolutely not is a sympathetic character; she bluntly calls herself a bad woman and she has done things that by mainstream standards are really wrong. But Ferrante never condemns her protagonists, on the contrary, she demands respect for them, for their complexity and smallness, and their negative sides. A grand little story this is, beautifully set in a hot summer Italian beach resort. I read this in Italian and it is striking that both in style and in the use of precise words Ferrante really succeeds in going to the heart of the matter.
Profile Image for Cláudia Azevedo.
283 reviews130 followers
March 1, 2022
Se não viram o filme, leiam primeiro o livro. Se já viram o filme, esperem ler quase exatamente o que viram, o que retira à leitura de Elena Ferrante toda a surpresa.
Ainda assim, senti que o livro levantou questões que o filme não quis ou não soube evidenciar, sobretudo em relação à boneca, o objeto simbólico da maternidade e da vida gerada, mas também em relação às sexualidade da protagonista, presa entre o passado e o futuro.
Diz-se que, quando uma pessoa está confusa ou perdida, que parece um tolo no meio da ponte. Nunca percebi porque não era no fim ou no princípio, mas sim no meio. Talvez tenha a ver com a confusão que se sente no meio de algo, como na meia idade (o meu caso). Estamos partidos a meio e não sabemos bem se somos ainda o que fomos no passado ou se devemos passar para o nível seguinte, onde não nos encaixamos de todo e não nos revemos.
Pelo contrário, o filme conseguiu retratar melhor a prisão que a maternidade pode ser e o dificílimo equilíbrio entre ser mulher, mãe e ter uma carreira. E como pode ser difícil enfrentar uma criança!
"Uma criança nunca quer somente aquilo que pede; pelo contrário, um pedido satisfeito torna ainda mais insuportável a falta não confessada."
Pela história e pelo modo como é contada, tenho de dar 5 estrelas.
Profile Image for Iloveplacebo.
384 reviews214 followers
August 5, 2022
Historia incómoda sobre Leda, una mujer que tiene un trabajo, que está divorciada, que tiene dos hijas, y que tiene emociones difíciles de contar.

La historia de Leda empieza cuando sus hijas se van de casa para irse a vivir con su padre a Canadá. Las hijas ya son mayores (22 y 24 años) y Leda siente que es libre para ser ella misma por fin.
Es verano y alquila un apartamento cerca de la playa.
Ahí, en la playa, se encuentra con una familia que le llamará la atención, en especial Nina y Elena, una madre joven y su hija de 3 años. La niña tiene una muñeca. La pierde. Leda la encuentra. ¿Se la devuelve?
Aquí empiezan las asfixiantes vacaciones de una mujer que entrelaza la narración de su presente con el de su pasado, de su historia familiar, pero sobre todo de su maternidad.

Hablar de cosas "tabú" nunca es fácil.
¿Qué hacer cuando no te caen bien tus propias hijas? ¿Qué hacer cuando te arrepientes de ser madre? ¿Cómo hacer frente a los sentimientos de culpa?

Creo que es una novela para reflexionar, que no se hace pesada, y que nunca te intenta posicionar.

Tengo que decir que la muñeca me ha dado mal rollo durante la lectura. No soy muy fan de ellas, y cuanto más mayor me hago menos me gustan 😆.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,174 reviews8,401 followers
November 12, 2016
As all of Ferrante's novels do, The Lost Daughter looks intimately at the complicated nature of motherhood and femininity. Leda, a 47-year old divorcee, is on vacation after her two daughters, now adults, move to live with their father in Canada. She spends her summer by the beach where she meets Nina, a young mother, and her daughter, Lenuccia, who is obsessed with her doll that eventually goes missing. Leda's interactions with this Neapolitan family gets her tied up in something bigger than herself and also forces her to confront her role as mother and the choices she's made in the past. It's a tightly written novel, expertly crafted but lacks the insight and power that Ferrante's other novels have. Overall, an interesting read but not one that will blow you away.
Profile Image for Lubinka Dimitrova.
256 reviews152 followers
January 23, 2016
The best feature of this book was its size. It was small. That much I can say about it. Beyond this, I found the characters utterly annoying, the plot borderline nauseating, and the writing... well, tolerable. I strongly considered creating a "heroine I'd gladly slap" shelf, but it's not worth it. I truly hope that I never become such a person, and even more, that I never meet such a person. Sadly, I'll remain in the dark when it comes to the reason everybody is so delighted with this fictional miss Ferrante.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,190 reviews1,692 followers
July 6, 2016
Here’s what we know about Elena Ferrante’s narrator, Leda: she’s the middle-aged mother of two grown daughters. Her daughters are living overseas with their father. She is a renowned English Literature scholar. And she is, by her own words, an unnatural mother.

In this searing book, Elena Ferrante courageously confronts one of our social taboos: what happens if, despite all our expectations, we feel diminished by motherhood? What if we choose to abandon our roles? What does that say about us?

Leda reflects, “When my daughters had 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 I had definitively brought them in the world.”

During her vacation off the Ionian coast, Leda happens across a boisterous and possibly menacing large family, and fixates on the young dissatisfied mother Nina and her cranky young daughter (..there was something off about the little girl; I don’t know what.”) The first-person narration makes us feel almost like complicit voyeurs as Leda studies the family, ultimately committing a simple act that will be a catalyst for self-examination.

There is a raw and uncompromising honesty as Leda reveals this about her abandonment of her girls, “I was like someone who is taking possession of her own life, and feels a host of things at the same time, among them an unbearable absence.” Yet this cannot be read as a feminist parable, because she quickly follows with this, when asled why she went back, “Because I realized that I wasn’t capable of creating anything of my own that could truly equal them.”

As with Days of Abandonment, another masterful work by Ms. Ferrante, there is ferociously good writing here, laced with a great sense of immediacy and a shockingly honest sense of authenticity. It’s hard to turn away as the narrative propels us to its organic ending.
Profile Image for Alejandra Arévalo.
Author 2 books1,327 followers
August 30, 2022
Qué increíble es esta autora. Siempre logra sacar lo peor de los personajes femeninos, lo digo en el mejor de los sentidos, las maternidad no es para todas y una se obsesiona con las cosas más ridículas con tal de hacer miserables a otras personas si es que tú lo eres. Por ahí va esta historia. Me encantaron los monólogos 🫣
Profile Image for Kansas.
609 reviews292 followers
July 6, 2022
"-No sé nada ni valgo nada. Me quedé embarazada, di a luz una niña y no sé ni cómo estoy hecha por dentro. Lo único que deseo es huir."

Me ha sorprendido tanto esta novela corta de Elena Ferrante, que todavía estoy que no salgo de mi asombro porque no soy una gran entusiasta de esta autora, aunque es cierto que la he disfrutado cuando la he leído, me ha enganchado y es fácil identificarse con sus personajes femeninos, sin embargo siempre he tenido la impresión de que se lo da todo muy masticado al lector sin darle mucha cancha para que imagine o intuya, una impresión totalmente personal, claro. Decidí leer La Hija Oscura porque una de mis peliculas favoritas del año pasado (The lost daughter, 2021, Maggie Gyllenhaal) fue precisamente la adaptación de este texto, una historia que hablaba tan bien, tan categóricamente de ciertos conflictos femeninos todavía no superados, que sentí mucha curiosidad por abordar el texto de Elena Ferrante. La novela no me ha decepcionado, y aunque vuelven a repetirse sus temas de siempre, la he sentido como su obra más cercana, más a flor de piel.

"Una, dos, tres veces nos amenazó a nosotras, sus hijas, con irse, os despertaréis una mañana y no me encontraréis. Todos los días me despertaba temblando de miedo. En la realidad estaba siempre, en las palabras huía de casa un día sí y otro también."

Leda, profesora universitaria divorciada y con dos hijas mayores que viven en Canadá con su padre, decide tomarse unas vacaciones en la costa para preparar el próximo curso. La soledad en la que Leda planeaba pasar sus vacaciones, se ve de interrumpida por una familia napolitana que casi inmeditamente se convierten en sus vecinos en la playa. Leda, mientras es testigo de sus ruidosas algarabias, no puede evitar retrotraerse a su infancia, y a su madre, napolitana. Entre este enorme grupo familiar destaca una joven y su hija de tres años. De alguna forma, Leda rezagada en su tumbona no puede evitar sentirse fascinada por esa joven madre, que le recuerda a ella misma, sus conflictos como madre mientras intentaba robar un poco de libertad a la vida, una maternidad que la asfixiaba dejándola casi sin aire para seguir viviendo.

"Yo también escondía muchas cosas oscuras en silencio.
Escribí: necesitaba creer que lo había hecho todo sola. Quería sentirme de manera cada vez más intensa yo misma, mis méritos, la autonomía de mis cualidades."

Elena Ferrante aborda con maestria el presente de Leda con su memoria del pasado, mientras observa a la joven madre y su hija, flujos de su juventud mientras criaba a sus hijas vuelven una y otra vez y se entrelazan con el presente, y estos flashbacks están tan perfectamente ensamblados por la autora, que resulta casi imposible diferenciar donde acaba el pasado y comienza el presente. La obsesión de Leda por ese pasado en el que se vio obligada a tomar decisiones en un intento por no derrumbarse y buscar su propia identidad están continuamente presentes mientras se ve reflejada como en un espejo en la joven madre de la playa. En La Hija Oscura Elena Ferrante vuelve a abordar el gran tema, uno de los más importantes en su obra, la obsesión recurrente del eterno conflicto entre madres e hijas, pero esta vez la he sentido mucho más cercana. Una obra inmensa y si queréis disfrutar de su adaptación, es incluso mejor que el texto original. Avisados quedaís. La traducción es de Edgardo Dogbry.

"-En ocasiones hay que huir para no morir."
Profile Image for Doug.
2,047 reviews746 followers
November 10, 2021
Despite the female-centric storyline and characters, I really enjoyed and could relate to much of the book. The translation is brilliant, and the prose effortless. My first Ferrante, but certainly not my last - might attempt the Neapolitan novels at some point. And the impending film adaptation, which has already won raves and awards on the festival circuit, which impelled me to read it in the first place, is certainly high on my must-see list. My one minor quibble is that the major male characters are named Gino, Gianni and Giovanni (probably intentional to show men are all interchangeable) - but I frequently had to pause to remember who was who.
Profile Image for emma.
199 reviews148 followers
April 18, 2023
a reflection on motherhood and daughterhood that exemplifies the beauty of elena ferrante’s prose.

as women, we are all daughters. we are not all mothers - by choice or by circumstance. this explores what a woman gains and loses as she assumes the role of a mother, and what a daughter is saddled with for life as a result. it is an exploration of torment and of the things that weigh us down when pondering on what could have been and what is.

just impeccable from start to finish.

"sometimes you have to escape in order not to die.”
Profile Image for Sinem A..
450 reviews249 followers
May 5, 2020
Heyecanla verilmiş bir 5 yıldız olabilir tabi. Tüm kitap sıcakken, yeni bir yazarla tanışmışken, onu bu kadar merak edip napoli 4 lemesine "ya çok da iyi değilse" diye korkup başlayamayıp bu kitabı bulduğuma sevinmişken. Tabi bu kitabı bulup haber veren arkadaşıma ayrıca teşekkür etmek isterim.

Adam Kirsch in 21. Yy romanı üzerine yazdığı kitabında Ferante den bahseder. Benim de ilgimi bu nedenle çekmişti Ferante yoksa popülerliği gizemi bilakis itici gelmişti ama iyi ki fazla uzak kalmamışım.

Benim açımdan empati dozu yüksek bir okuma olduğu için de çokça sevmiş olabilirim. Kitabın biraz cinsiyetçi ve feminist bir tavrı olduğunu söylemek gerek. Ancak kelimelerle imgelerle kurduğu yapı gerçekten çok başarılı hakkını vermek lazım.
Profile Image for marta (sezon literacki).
257 reviews1,274 followers
June 9, 2023

Pogłębiona analiza psychiki głównej bohaterki w kontekście dwóch życiowych ról - córki i matki. Momentami bardzo ciekawa i wnikliwa, skupiająca się na tym, czy będąc matką wypada nam jeszcze mieć własne oczekiwania i marzenia. Czy macierzyństwo nas ich pozbawia i sprowadza nasze życie wyłącznie do jednej roli?

Kilka lat temu na pewno była to książka przełomowa i naruszająca pewne tabu. Dziś już chyba coraz śmielej się o tym mówi.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,542 reviews