Rachel's Reviews > The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante
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Mar 05, 10

bookshelves: fiction
Read from February 14 to March 05, 2010

"The Lost Daughter" is one of those amazing books where the stream-of-consciousness works. In the present, the book is about a middle aged woman, Leda, who takes a beach-side vacation for the summer. Beneath the surface, it's about how her interactions with a Neapolitan family reminds her of her upbringing and, more poignantly, her relationships with her estranged daughters.

One thing I love about this book is that, even though I was in Leda's head, she managed to surprise me. She was filled with such longing for her daughters, who now lived in Canada with their father, that it didn't cross my mind that *she* had first abandoned *them.* Similarly, Nina, the young mother of the very young Elena, first seemed like solely the victim of her husband's family, but then we learn that she is having an affair.

The relationship between Nina and Leda might be the central one of the story. First, they revere each other- the unfortunate young mother, the sophisticated middle-aged professor- then those illusions are shattered. Nina tries to justify her affair by going to Leda, but Leda knows that leaving her children was just selfishness. Then Nina goes to Leda to beg her apartment for a night with her lover, only to be met with the news that Leda had stolen Elena's doll, an act that completely unraveled her family. Suddenly, she goes from being a selfish child herself to a lioness of a mother.

There was just so much great character development here, and Ferrante completely captured the complexity of familial relations. (As an American- especially an Italian American- it was also great to learn about distinct, cultural groups within Italy!) My one big complaint would be that I wish she'd changed up some of her male names a bit. Too many of the main characters started with G- Leda's suitor, Giovanni, Nina's lover, Gino, Leda's ex-husband, Gianni. I'm not ashamed to admit I got them confused from time to time. :P
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