‘The Days Of Abandonment,’ Elena Ferrante
It took me a couple of years to go past a few pages the first of Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels. Once that threshold was crossed, there was no looking back. In two weeks, all four was done and I was totally blown away.
This one took a similar turn, if I may say so. The difference though was each sentence of the Neapolitan four were devoured in detail. The Abandonment was a fast forward in contrast. One fine day, Mario tells his wife Olga that he no longer wants to have a life with her. In the fifteen years they were together, he had given some hints of unusual behavior maybe twice and Olga had believed that all those were behind them. What goes through her and her life in the ensuing days is what Ferrante portrays in this very short book.
The various phases that Olga goes through, the total disbelief, the difficulty to accept, the sheer bewilderment as to what went wrong, the cycle of guilt, the all consuming anger, the feeling of losing her mind, the changing relationship with her children, and finally the acceptance is described in graphic detail.
There is no shying away from the honesty of the protagonist’s emotions. She hates everything and everyone including her children. However, she has no choice but to go ahead with taking care of the home. While the man walks away with a younger woman, without even a thought of how his family will manage, the woman is left to pick up the pieces.
Rooting for Olga right from the beginning, almost shouting at her to get on with her life, I skipped sentences and whole paragraphs even. Ferrante doesn’t disappoint with the depth of her character portrayals. You get angry and depressed in turns, at a point I was wondering why I was going through such torture in the first place. That is where Ferrante’s magic is. She has you in her spell and it cannot be broken until you have turned the last page.