The New Yorker: "Ferrantes polished language belies the rawness of her imagery, which conveys perversity, violence, and bodily functions in ripe detail."
Date: Oct 26 2006
This slender novel is set in motion by the strange circumstances surrounding a death, but it is more concerned with the enigma of memory and self. Delia, a cartoonist living in Rome, receives three incoherent phone calls from her mother, who is supposed to be on her way from Naples; the next day, her mother’s nearly naked body washes up onshore at a seaside resort town. In Naples for the funeral, Delia is confronted with the past she tried to disown as she struggles to make sense of the events leading to her mother’s drowning. A shadowy figure named Caserta, the man Delia, as a five-year-old, accused her mother of having an affair with, reëmerges as possibly the last person to see her alive. Ferrante’s polished language belies the rawness of her imagery, which conveys perversity, violence, and bodily functions in ripe detail. Delia’s discovery of the secret of her childhood is made all the more jarring by the story’s disorienting mixture of fantasy and reality.