A broken-hearted friend of mine recently said of his ex-girlfriend: "I would have preferred it if she had taken a hammer and smashed up my right hand with it. That would have felt better than this." Elena Ferrante's The Days of Abandonment is essentially that sentiment in book form - the body blow of love lost.
Olga is deserted first by her husband of 15 years and next by "all sense". Her plight sears the reader through a language of intense, intelligent introspection.
(a pseudonym) sees in story-telling a metaphor for how the broken-hearted rebuild their lives. A wry voice buoys the reader as Olga falls into deep pools of despair, ignoring her children, screaming at call centre employees. Meanwhile, her descent lends veracity to the self-conscious narrative.
In her youth, Olga remembers, she "wanted to write stories about women with resources, women of invincible words, not a manual for the abandoned wife with her lost love at the top of her thoughts".
But the author does not dignify that dichotomy. Describing Olga feeling "a jolt of grief so intense that the tears seemed to me fragments of a crystal object... shattered into a thousand stabbing shards", Ferrante puts hammer to flesh and invites her reader to penetrate the page.
by Rose Jacobs