Troubling Love, Elena Ferrante’s stylish debut, which was translated and published back in 2006, is a much adored find for those that have enjoyed the Neapolitan Novels, as there is a whole following you find of her chic family sagas. Beautifully told, the book explores family themes, abandonment and domestic abuse within this short novel and asks massive questions, which is the pull and hits your intrigue.
Following her mother’s furtive death, Delia embarks on a journey through Naples in search for the truth about her family. A series of mysterious telephone calls leads her to rather alarming revelations about her mother’s final days. Naples itself becomes a character in this novel, whose chaotic, smothering streets become one of the book’s central motifs. This book explores the relationship between mothers and daughters and the intricate knot of lies and emotions that binds them.
Just days before her body was washed ashore near her hometown of Naples, Amalia called her daughter, Delia, with unanticipated news that she was with a man who was not her estranged husband but a two-bit painter. After the funeral at which Amalia’s husband doesn’t show, Delia goes in search of the story behind the new brassiere Amalia was found wearing at her death, inappropriate for a poor seamstress who conventionally downplayed her looks in order to avoid encouraging her husband’s jealousy.
Obviously, a disconcerting read, Ferrante hooks you in with her wonderful literary prose, and the motifs that are prevalent to the novel. Anxiety, too, features heavily in this work, as the protagonist eagerly searches for answers. Misogyny is also central to this as we witness not only a controlling husband and obsessive lover, but also the men around Naples that rub up against women on public transport or those that tend to stare, but this to me depicts an uncomfortable Naples, and reasons perhaps not to venture to that part of Italy.
Thought-provoking, yet riveting and with her lyrical style of writing it is a must-read, perhaps more so than the quadrilogy, as you are satisfied with this one, although inquisitive about the rest of her published works. Troubling Love pokes at issues and themes that Ferrante appears to have no qualms dealing with, and for that, makes it a great read.
Troubling Love was published by Europa Editions in 2007.