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The Lost Daughter

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  13,282 ratings  ·  1,270 reviews
From the author of The Days of Abandonment, The Lost Daughter is Elena Ferrante's most compelling and perceptive meditation on womanhood and motherhood yet. Leda, a middle-aged divorce, is alone for the first time in years when her daughters leave home to live with their father. Her initial, unexpected sense of liberty turns to ferocious introspection following a seemingly ...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Europa Editions (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,282 ratings  ·  1,270 reviews

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Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is going to sound strange -- I loved this book, but I didn't enjoy it. The story involves a mother of grown daughters who is dealing with her own ambivalence at what she gave up to assume that role. The author manages to take the flicker of lost independence that every mother feels and magnify it and state it in a brutal and unflinching way. I hated the narrator, but I couldn't look away. ...more
Elyse  Walters
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, women, fiction
It’s been awhile since I read - and ‘obsessively’ enjoyed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. ( especially loved book 2 and 3).....
I went into this book completely blind!!
It’s a ‘thin-slim’......’thick-thought’-provoking novella.

I was immediately pulled in from the ‘get-go’ with these words:
“When my daughters moved to Toronto, where their father had lived and worked for years, I was embarrassed and amazed to discover that I wasn’t upset; rather, I felt light, as if only then had I definitely
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After four read books, I can conclude that I experience an unconditional devotion to Ferrante's novels and emphatically place her amongst my favorite authors. I simply admire the frankness and the brutality of her thoughts and celebrate eagerly the woman's manifest in each sentence. Ferrante's struggle is to shatter the assumed, especially in conservative societies, image of the woman - the mother, the wife, the housekeeper. This is the similarity I find in each novel - the endeavor to redeem pa ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bookclub-reads
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante was out bookclub end of season read.

In this Novella The narrator, a forty-seven-year-old divorcée summering alone on the Ionian coast, becomes obsessed with a beautiful young mother who seems ill at ease with her husband’s rowdy, slightly menacing Neapolitan clan. When this woman’s daughter loses her doll, the older woman commits a small crime that she can’t explain even to herself.

I have to admit I totally struggled with the characters and the plot of this n
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novella starts off reminding me— in terms of the setting only—very much of the longish story “The Beach” in Cesare Pavese‘s The Selected Works, translated by R.W. Flint.

As in the Neapolitan novels, Ferrante again shows in harrowing detail the absolute misery of child rearing. The annoyances, the resentments, the hatreds, to and from both parent and child. It’s like a trap for all involved, a prison. It seems the Italians don’t go in much for psychoanalysis, at least not the characters in F
Michael Finocchiaro
I loved this short novel from the ever incredible Elena Ferrante. The twisted story of the protagonist who steals a doll on a beach is both captivating and heartbreaking. In typical Ferrante fashion, the narration wanders between the primary narrative of the protagonist's seaside vacation and her memories of her now-moved away daughters. It is a poignant portrait of motherhood and dealing with getting old. A must-read for fans of the Naples tetralogy - for me perhaps her strongest standalone nov ...more
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is signature Elena Ferrante, there is no mistaking her writing. She captures the torment of motherhood beautifully. The internal conflict of remaining an individual woman versus the constraints of motherhood. The regrets and remorse that constantly weigh a woman down, that juxtaposition really defines her books. This novel is weird in a good way. The conflicted nature of the main character suffering what I believe to be classic empty nest syndrome tinged with terrible regrets, she encounter ...more
Nov 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, translated
As all of Ferrante's novels do, The Lost Daughter looks intimately at the complicated nature of motherhood and femininity. Leda, a 47-year old divorcee, is on vacation after her two daughters, now adults, move to live with their father in Canada. She spends her summer by the beach where she meets Nina, a young mother, and her daughter, Lenuccia, who is obsessed with her doll that eventually goes missing. Leda's interactions with this Neapolitan family gets her tied up in something bigger than he ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Troubling Love. The Days of Abandonment. The Lost Daughter. Throw these titles up in the air and whichever lands on whichever book, it would fit. (Not the covers, though: each is uniquely apt.) Ferrante's first-person female narrators could almost be the same woman at different stages of life, except for the three being too close in age and possessing different voices. They are creative women with similar Neapolitan mothers, though with different family ties: single, childless Delia, a cartoonis ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ewww! This is certainly not a 4 star for enjoyment, but in writing ability and emotive core character layered, nearly a 5. Elena Ferrante is absolutely able to conceptualize, feel, display and express dichotomy of want/repulse, love/hate, scattered self-identity and in other general minutia, the Italian culture's brand of personality disordered woman. This one is vilely unlikable. She was to me. She self-describes as "the unnatural Mother".

It's a state of hurt from both generational directions
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Life can have an ironic geometry. Starting from the age of thirteen or fourteen I had aspired to a bourgeois decorum, proper Italian, a good life, cultured and reflective. Naples had seemed a wave that would drown me. I didn’t think the city could contain life forms different from those I had known as a child, violent or sensually lazy, tinged with sentimental vulgarity or obtusely fortified in defense of their own wretched degradation”

The Lost Daughter is the third novel by Italian author, Ele
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Here’s what we know about Elena Ferrante’s narrator, Leda: she’s the middle-aged mother of two grown daughters. Her daughters are living overseas with their father. She is a renowned English Literature scholar. And she is, by her own words, an unnatural mother.

In this searing book, Elena Ferrante courageously confronts one of our social taboos: what happens if, despite all our expectations, we feel diminished by motherhood? What if we choose to abandon our roles? What does that say about us?

Lubinka Dimitrova
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: depressed, misanthropic people who need a lesson or two on how to improve their misanthropic skills
Recommended to Lubinka by: the goddamn internet
The best feature of this book was its size. It was small. That much I can say about it. Beyond this, I found the characters utterly annoying, the plot borderline nauseating, and the writing... well, tolerable. I strongly considered creating a "heroine I'd gladly slap" shelf, but it's not worth it. I truly hope that I never become such a person, and even more, that I never meet such a person. Sadly, I'll remain in the dark when it comes to the reason everybody is so delighted with this fictional ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
"Sometimes you have to escape in order not to die."

I am a Ferrante fan. I blistered through her Neapolitan Tetralogy, liking some over others, but overall it was pretty amazing as a whole. "Days of Abandonment" was strong, but a work on its own and perhaps my favorite of the ones I've read from her. "The Lost Daughter" is the antithesis of "Days of Abandonment".

If a parent leaves, society deems it normal if it's the father, but if a mother leaves, that same society questions why? How could she?
Paul Fulcher
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Elena Ferrante's 3rd novel and the novel she has cited as her most daring. It's slim 130 pages prepared the ground for the epic and magnificent 1700 page My Beautiful Friend.

The set-up is simple: a divorced middle-aged woman with two grown up children is on holiday and becomes intrigued by a young girl and her mid-20s mother she sees on the beach. She initially sees their relationship as an ideal she failed to achieve, before, as she gets to know them better, realising that their issues mirror h
The Lost Daughter is especially interesting to experience after reading Ferrante's Neapolitan novels. She explores struggle and ambivalence in motherhood with the same cutting voice. It's easy and exciting to see the similarities in choice and process between her characters here and in the Neapolitan novels.

I found it a condensed version of the same power she exhibited in her series, but with focus on one theme over a short period of time. I enjoyed the few moments of surprise when you realize
Dec 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
A brutally frank novel of maternal ambivalence. A 40-something divorced mother of two grown daughters looks back and examines her feelings on motherhood. Although disturbing at times it was very intriguing. She is shockingly honest which is refreshing. I think many mothers have at some point felt at least a little of what she has written but would be afraid to admit for fear of how they would be viewed by others.
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europa, ill
distrubing in its honesty about women caught between children and career or fullfillment or just wanting to do and be their own person apart from mama or wife or cleaner or whathaveyou. clever too how author does this in title, she was a damaged daughter who wanted nothing more than to escape from her mother and grandmother in hillbilly naples, only to find she wanted nothing more than to escape from her phd husband and two daughters and pursue HER phd (which she did, and never looked back, for ...more
Even in small novels, little more than a short story actually, Ferrante really excels. It strikes me that her main characters always are very 'complexed': always women who struggle with their self esteem, and so also with what others and society in general expects of them, and who particularly are seized by their relationship to their mothers or to their children. In this story Leda not really is a sympathetic character, she bluntly calls herself a bad woman and she has done things that by mains ...more
Dec 29, 2014 rated it liked it
The reclusive Elena Ferrante has come into much praise of late in the U.S. for her novels of female friendship set against the gritty backdrop of crime-ridden Naples. This novel is the outlier--it takes place at the beach and the woman at its center, an Italian professor of English named Leda, is solitary, even, by choice it would seem, friendless. She stumbles into a glancing association with the lost daughter of the title and her rough, fractious Neapolitan family. But, for all her education a ...more
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I fucking love Elena Ferrante holy shit that was a a hit
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
"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
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this one - it reminded me in many way of The Days of Abandonment, and actually makes me want to revisit that one.

The story of this novella is simple - a woman, upon having her daughters move to Canada to be with their father, feels unexpectedly freed and goes on a beach holiday. There she sees a woman and her young daughter, who is overly attached to an ugly doll. Certain events happen, and the narrator begins to re-examine her own life as a mother and her relationship to her t
Erin Malone
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was riveted by the intensity of the narrator's experience as the mother of two grown daughters, the complicated feelings of love and self-reproach that eat away at her spirit long after she's no longer responsible for the care of the girls. All of this is tied up with a suspenseful plot, too--I read this book in one sitting. ...more
I have a pile of review from the last two months to do, but it's about time to catch up. Review soon! ...more
Spoilers abound.

The good: there are far fewer of those make-you-want-to-vomit-your-last-feed comparisons she makes. The ones she does make are fabulously ludicrously inept.

For instance: she describes stealing a doll from a little girl who is extremely attached to it as 'A gesture like you make in sleep, when you turn over in bed and upset the lamp on the night table.' Huh?

And here: she has decided to leave her husband and children to hang out with an old heavyweight academic who has the hots for
Chad Walker
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow. This thing moves through you like an acidic breath of not-so-fresh air, but there's something magical to the voice that keeps the narrative moving very very quickly. The narrator is not particularly likeable, but she is smart, darkly funny and - above all - honest, which is more or less what this is an exercise in exploring. "The hardest things to talk about are the ones we ourselves can't understand": this nugget arrives on page 2, and then - through a series of minor, but menacing events ...more
Siobhan Fallon
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Motherhood angst and a dose of pure genius. I tore through this novel and kept myself awake for nights thinking about it. If you like your fiction dark and provocative (and just a little bit unhinged), you will love Elena Ferrante as much as I do.
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, library
3.5 rounded up

Elena Ferrante sure knows how to write complicated, unlikeable women. This one was less bizarre but equally as engaging as The Days of Abandonment, and I'm glad I picked it up!

The Lost Daughter centres around a woman in her late 40s from Naples who goes for a beach holiday by herself, and meets a large family (also from Naples) on the beach - and gets to know the young mother and daughter from this family. She becomes embroiled in some of the dramas of their lives, and through her
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
See my full review here: http://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wor...

There are taboo subjects when it comes to motherhood – things that mothers might think about but rarely, if ever, talk about. Having favourite children; fantasisng about simply walking out and leaving the family to look after themselves; resenting children for robbing you of career or life aspirations; feeling jealous of your own children and their opportunities; judging other women’s’ parenting; loving your children but not ‘likin
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Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist. Ferrante's books, originally published in Italian, have been translated into many languages. Her four-book series of Neapolitan Novels are her most widely known works. ...more

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