Monday, March 03, 2014

Books: Troubling Love. A novel by Elena Ferrante

I decided to give a second chance to Ferrante hoping to read something of the quality of Days of Abandonment. Troubling Love is satisfying to an extent. It is a bold and ambitious book which tries to capture the complexities of a mother-daughter love-hate relationship. The narrator Delia, struggles to understand her relationship with Amalia, her mother, on the day after her mother's death by drowning. As Delia puts it quite appropriately at some point: "I was here to cross a line". And she does cross that line. Occasionally, she also crosses the line of literary taste getting lost into convoluted psychoanalytical kitsch. Had the narrative been simpler, crisper, Delia's digging into the past in order to recover the truth buried under convenient post-factum rationalizations and lies, would have provided a more revealing and cathartic experience. The "truth" about Amalia's past, not surprisingly, revolves around her husband's jealousy, his violence, her lover (imagined by her child-daughter), her repressed sexuality. Delia both wishes for, and hates and fears her mother's erotic liberation. One of her childhood memories is of her sitting with her parents in a summer theater, her mother furtively glancing around in the dark, her father possessively putting an arm around her shoulder: "Amalia after a stealthy look sideways, curious and yet apprehensive, let her head fall on my father's shoulder and appeared happy. That double movement tortured me. I didn't know where to follow my mother in flight, if along the axis of that glance or along the parabola that her hair made in the direction of her husband's shoulder.I was beside her, trembling. Even the stars, so thick in summer, seemed to me points of my confusion. I was to such an extent determined to become different from her that, one by one, I lost the reason for resembling her." Good writing.

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