And goodness if it isn't a fantastic book.
The Days of Abandonment starts where a lot of stories get to - a woman's husband leaves her. Olga and Mario have been together for years - they've built a home together and have two children together. But now Mario, in what at first seems to Olga utterly out-of-character, announces after dinner that he simply cannot stay anymore, that it's too much for him. And he walks out the door, and Olga's story may begin.
This abandonment is the trigger for the journey on which Olga now embarks. The Days of Abandonment tracks Olga through her initial shock - and outright denial - straight through to her realization of what sort of marriage she had had and who her husband was. This is a painful, raw journey, often so realistic and terrifying in its presentation of life on the edge that just the act of reading it felt like letting some demon into my soul.
Ferrante is an unforgiving writer. She takes no shortcuts in the narrative, nor does she gloss over the difficulty of suddenly being thrown into a new reality. There is no coy foreshadowing here, no attempts at clever plot twists. In this sense, The Days of Abandonment thus ends up feeling somewhat subversive - this shocking novel turns into something believable and unexpected because of how normal it feels. Olga's steady loss of control and gradual disappearance into the madness that is abandonment felt like a painful, preventable slide. I found myself so quickly drawn into the story that I just wanted desperately to shake Olga.
The Days of Abandonment is not a flawless, perfect book. Its pacing is occasionally off and there were characters I constantly hoped for more from, yet all in all there's no denying the power behind Ferrante's words. This reclusive writer (who some have theorized is actually a man despite interviews showing that she has described herself as a mother, so this seems unlikely...) captures life so sharply, so cleanly, that I am honestly in awe. Are there subplots I would have omitted from the story? Most definitely. Are there scenes that were so painful that I had to set the book aside? Yes. But is this a powerful, brilliantly written account of one woman's struggles? Absolutely. I am without a doubt going to read the remainder of Ferrante's books - if you're looking for excellent books by women writers in translation, I think it's fair to say that Ferrante will make a fantastic first stop.