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Troubling Love

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  8,351 ratings  ·  794 reviews
Set in Naples, Italy, this debut novel by New York Times bestselling author Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend, The Days of Abandonment) tells a story about mothers and daughters and the complicated knot of lies, emotions, and shared history than binds them.

Following her mother's untimely and mysterious death, Delia embarks on a voyage of discovery through the chaotic, su
Paperback, 139 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Europa (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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 ·  8,351 ratings  ·  794 reviews

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Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s as if Ferrante were channeling Georges Simenon here, in her first novel, and doing quite a good job of it. Though the great fornicator never had this in depth take on women, being so terribly busy objectifying them.

A woman in her sixties is found in the ocean “at a place called Spaccavento, a few miles from Minturno.” She’s wearing nothing but an expensive bra, not her style at all, according to the narrator, the dead woman’s eldest daughter. This daughter, Delia, is not sound. She is assa

An unpleasant and disturbing read. Everything feels ugly here. Postwar Naples with its dirty streets and unkempt flats, overwhelming poverty and general aura of failure. Women subjected to all kind of abuse and domestic violence, men shown mostly as malicious and meanspirited individuals.

Ferrante seems to write the same story over and over again. I gave already up trying to understand the phenomena of her writing. I gather it's her unbending honesty, raw and unpolished, that unmitigated lack of
Michael Finocchiaro
Elena Ferrante's first novel is gripping and very well-written.
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Based on the two Ferrante novels I've read so far (the other being The Days of Abandonment), I predict the title of this one will describe my relationship with all her works. Though I wasn't as drawn in at first by the narratorial voice here as I was with that of "Days", I ended up feeling much the same about both. They are not novels I can say I've enjoyed as they are so unsettling, but each has gotten under my skin and stayed there. Here too are abandonment issues: an anxious child unreasonabl ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, i-own-it, translated
3.5 stars While not my favorite of Ferrante's novels (it was her debut after all), I'm still impressed by her voice. Even from her very first published novel, Ferrante seems to be so sure of what she has to say—or at least confident in approaching touchy subjects and asking big questions. This book hits on a lot of major themes that resurface in Ferrante's later works: mother/daughter relationships, the male gaze, female bodies, identity crises, etc. And while it was a bit rough around the edges ...more
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, the-psyche
Those images of us from so long ago were yellowed, cracked, like the figures of winged demons in certain altarpieces that the faithful have defaced with pointed objects.

There's something devilishly chaotic about this first novel by Elena Ferrante. Somewhere in this infusion of memory and psyche wrapped in a blanket of refined language, are hidden clues and a mystery to be solved. Somewhere in this mother-daughter relationship is a meshing of two generations of women and one quickly realizes
Steven Godin
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: italy, fiction
I've heard marvellous things about Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels by many a reader, so what possessed me to want to read this as my first I really don't know. I found Troubling Love to be a nasty little novel, and I can't think of much that I liked about it at all, other than it's Naples setting.
At the expense of trying to tell a story, Ferrante seems more interested in constantly reminding the reader that her narrator is indeed a woman with lines like - "I undressed and took out the tampax: my p
Fiona MacDonald
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
Elena Ferrante has such a beautiful and lyrical way of writing. This time she tackles the painful subject of the death of Delia's mother from suicide. The novel plays as a love letter, interspersed with past and present memories Delia has of her life and relationships with her mother, her father and siblings. I think to be honest whatever topic Ferrante writes about is just a pure joy to devour.
Rae Meadows
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Readers of Ferrante's other books will recognize familiar themes in her first novel--estranged yet intense mother/daughter relationship, violence in the home, violence in Naples, poverty, lascivious and aggressive men, disassociation from self, the body, the body, the body, particularly a woman's body. This book definitely suffered for me having read all her other work and seeing the themes better developed in later work.

Delia's mother has drowned in an apparent suicide, and Delia goes back to
Jan 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
I absolutely love Ferrante's writing style, but even that couldn't save the bizarre content of this book. The concept had so much potential: a daughter trying to learn the mystery of her mother's death with only a few clues. In 140 pages (which seemed more like 500), we basically read about a woman on her period running around Naples with a bag of her mother's underwear. When I wasn't confused about what was happening, I was just disturbed. Ferrante is a terrific writer, but please pass on this ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ferrante has the unique ability to make you forgive - if not love - humanity at its most hateful.

Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: europa-editions
Susan: Europa Editions, is Italy as depressing and confusing as it appears to be from a survey of your catalogue?

Europa Editions: Unenlightened Reader, what makes you think Italy is depressing? It is MAGICAL, as these two books, Troubling Love and From the Land of the Moon , clearly show.

S: Can you explain how confusing illusion for reality because of severe emotional trauma is not depressing?

EE: It’s not depressing because it’s a way of coping with ugly emotions and problems. Sure, you Ameri
Anita Pomerantz
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-books
A "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" book that should be on a list called "Books You Shouldn't Read Before You Die Unless Someone Is Paying You. A Lot."

Not sure how a 139 page book can seem so long and unnecessarily convoluted, but this one managed. It is the story of Delia, daughter of Amalia. Amalia drowns in the sea wearing only a beautiful lace bra, an item of clothing she would never wear. Sounds good so far, right?

And that's where the good part ends. The rest of the book is a mish mash of
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I started reading this after finishing the Neapolitan novels, hoping to extend the exiting journey that Ferrante took me on. With such high expectations, I was bound to disappointment. It's not that the book is bad, it just seems as a distant echo of her saga, with similar themes (closeness, domestic violence, clingy Napels), but without the captivating drive that would bind the reader to the pages. Maybe the problem lays in the outlines of her characters, which are too vauge and dreamlike to gi ...more
This book is a real punch in the belly. I'm going to classify it with the works that dig deep into the dark side of men and women. The story is about the struggle of Delia, a middle aged woman, with the death of her mother, Amalia. Delia has fled her home town Naples in an attempt to break radically with her mother and (the separate living) father. But after the death (suicide?) of Amalia Delia tries to unravel the mystery around the life her mother has led. She finds no really satisfying answer ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
“Childhood is a tissue of lies that endure in the past tense: at least, mine was like that”

Troubling Love is the first novel by Italian author, Elena Ferrante. The drowning death of her sixty-three year old mother, Amalia, sends Rome cartoonist, Delia back to her hometown of Naples for the funeral. The circumstances of Amalia’s death were a little strange: overdue for her monthly visit to Delia, she was found on the beach that was their childhood holiday destination, dressed only in an expensive
Sherwood Smith
Sep 07, 2015 added it
Shelves: fiction
A name that has recently gaining serious word of mouth, Elena Ferrante caught my interest, and here was this standalone book to try before attempting her series.

It's apparently her first novel, and of course is translated. It's also fairly short, though not the least bit a fast read. It took me a week, partly because of content.

Good: the prose, even translated, is a relief from the easy patterns encountered in so much genre storytelling, but at least genre books, even with pedestrian prose, don'
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Woman: portrayed as a loaded weapon. As a sponge.

A powerful debut, "Troubling Love" expertly meshes personal drama with (Italian) national themes. Themes like mysoginy, turpid histories, violent families. Because the men are a certain way, women are a certain way... But unapologetically, Ferrante displays her protagonist in full splendor; even if the plot is not terribly strong, her Naples is a creature of beauty and danger; her Delia even more so!
Confusing, didn't know what the main character (Delia) was banging on about half the time. In the middle of scenes she went off on random tangents and delusions, I had to keep re-reading parts as it was hard to fully follow Delia's inner monologue and imaginings. By the end I still wasn't none the wiser as to what happened to Delia's mother or the part Caserta played or what Delia's weird feelings for her mother were. Worst of all though was the constant disgusting description of bodily fluids a ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Oh, if only Elena Ferrante's books were written by somebody else. Not My Brilliant Friend and its companions, but the rest. She always writes about herself and she is truly the most boring person, with - for me - the least interesting problems, about whom I have ever read so many words. She gets away with it in the series because Lena is extraordinary, and because they are surrounded by people who are interesting. But in both this and The Days of Abandonment it becomes frustrating.

rest here:
Steph S.
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
I have this theory that no Italian book or story can be fully appreciated without first parsing out the influence of Dante.

Elena Ferrante's first novel (original title: L’Amore Molesto - Elaine, does this mean what I think it means?) brims with Dantean obsessions like hypocrisy, exile, and purgatory, but, turning post-war Naples into an unpleasant breeding ground for numerous tiny acts of cowardice and indecency, she scratches at the blackened scabs of these obsessions until they open anew and b
Paul Fulcher
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Delia must simply manage to tell herself a story, which she knows well from beginning to end - which she has never repressed. The story has remained entangled in certain spaces of the city, in the dialectical voices through which it took shape. The woman comes into the labyrinth of Naples to capture it, put it in order, arrange space and time, finally tell her own story out loud. She tries and in doing so understands that, if she succeeds, she will also succeed in finally adding to herself her m
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'll be honest when I say that I 100% was not really following this novella while reading. Elena Ferrante's writing is beautiful (if not quite as accomplished as her later work), and Ann Goldstein's translation is fantastic as per usual. But I just could not for the life of me care about or follow the plot. Probably the most disappointing Ferrante book I've read so far, and yet it's hard for me to really explain why.
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
Quite an interesting book. Although there are many unanswered questions in the end, I guess the ambiguity is part of the package as those are not what the author wanted to leave to her readers. The truth about the death of the mother is simply left open for interpretation just like how the relationship of the mother to her daughter is in the first place: cold, indifferent and distant. Just like many other situations I encountered from reading fiction, reading this book is like threading in an un ...more
Luann Ritsema
Aug 16, 2009 rated it liked it
A puzzling, dark book and that is usually not a problem for me, but this one didn't stick that well. I admired the writing (or the translation, rather) but didn't feel like I ever got engaged with either the characters or the subject matter. The book opens with the suicide of the narrator's mother and goes down from there. I think the title is apt -- all the love described in this slim volume is troubling in nature, love being loosely defined. Perhaps it just struck me as too dark and unhappy fo ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
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Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Troubling Love is interesting to read as the book referred to partially in Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels so far, but besides that, I am struggling with being a victim of the "Ferrante fever" but finding Troubling Love a disappointment. The writing is far too involved with itself, to the point of reading sentences that are too caught up in their own ornamentation that they are confusing. One sentence I underlined mentions a father who belongs to a generation that could not imagine waste. Now ...more
Sharon Hart-Green
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Despite the skill of Ferrante's writing, this novel was a disappointment. After reading her brilliant Neapolitan novels, I couldn't help feeling that this one pales in comparison. The plot is slow and tedious, and I found it difficult to continue after the first 50 pages.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Call me biased but when an Italian author shows up on this list I always break into a smile. Usually I can relate to these books more as Malta is very similar in both environment and people and the translations are very good as Italian is a relatively easy language to convert into English. However I am going to say that I have some mixed feelings about Troubling Love.

Delia discovers that her mother, Amalia, has committed suicide by drowning and further inspection finds out that the only thing sh
Mat C Sharp
As I have mentioned before, I love Ferrante. I love the way she writes, which seems simple and neat, while subtly immenses the reader in the story, slowly understanding the characters as if from the inside. This describes her writing overall, and I also felt it in this book.
However, this feeling is compromised this time by the plot, which was unsettling, to say the least. I think I had a "what did I just read" moment when I finished it. It is a book that leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied, t
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Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist.
Ferrante is the author of a half dozen novels, including The Lost Daughter (originally published as La figlia oscura, 2006).
In 2012, Europa Editions began publication of English translations of Ferrante's "Neapolitan Novels," a series about two perceptive and intelligent girls from Naples who try to create lives for themselves within a violent an

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“Childhood is a tissue of lies that endure in the past tense” 3 likes
“I sat on a bench and did what, as a girl, I had done whenever I needed to calm myself: instead of pressing the button with the number 4 on it, I let myself go up to the sixth floor. That space had been empty and dark for many years, ever since the lawyer who had his office there had left, taking with him even the light bulb from the landing. When the elevator stopped, I let my breath glide into my stomach and then return slowly to my throat. As always, after a few seconds, the light in the elevator went out, too. I thought of reaching my hand out to one of the door handles: you had only to pull it and the light would return. But I didn't move and continued to send my breath deep into my body. The only sound was that of the woodworms eating into the panelled walls.

Just a few months earlier (five, six?), on a sudden impulse, I had revealed to my mother, during one of my brief visits, that as an adolescent I used to retreat to that secret place, and I brought her up there, to the top. Maybe I wanted to try to establish an intimacy that there had never been, maybe I wanted to let her know in some confused way that I had always been unhappy. But she seemed to me only amused by the fact that I had sat suspended in the void, in a dilapidated elevator.”
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