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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Troubling Love

by
Elena Ferrante


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Troubling Love



Title: Troubling Love
Author: Elena Ferrante
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 139 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Troubling Love - US
Troubling Love - UK
Troubling Love - Canada
Troubling Love - India
Lästige Liebe - Deutschland
L'amore molesto - Italia
  • Italian titel L'amore molesto
  • L'amore molesto was made into a film directed by Mario Martone in 1995; it was released in the US as Nasty Love
  • Translated by Ann Goldstein

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Our Assessment:

B- : grim and intense

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Yorker . 23/10/2006 .
The NY Times Book Rev. . 1/10/2006 David Lipsky


  From the Reviews:
  • "This slender novel is set in motion by the strange circumstances surrounding a death, but it is more concerned with the enigma of memory and self." - The New Yorker

  • "It's a smelly book. (...) Troubling Love is soggy with tears -- and the blank mood that follows a good long cry -- but you can't isolate the source of the weeping. (...) Ferrante is fascinated by the moments when a personality -- like a wire stretched too far from its power source -- shorts and corrodes." - David Lipsky, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The title of Elena Ferrante's first novel has been translated as Troubling Love, but as the Italian original (L'amore molesto) and the film-title ('Nasty Love') suggest, what's going on here is perhaps more than that. It's certainly deeply, deeply troubling. The story is narrated by Delia. Her mother was supposed to have come visit her in Rome, but never made it. Amalia was found dead instead, drowned.
       It's not clear whether it was an accident, suicide, or murder. The book focusses on the days shortly after the death -- the funeral and after, with Delia learning more about her mom, and remembering the traumatic past. The death of a close family member is always difficult, but given her family relationships and conditions Delia really has a lot to deal with.
       It presumably doesn't help that Amalia dies on Delia's birthday. But it's some of the mystery surrounding it that affects Delia, leading her to wonder how much she knew about her mother at all -- such as the bra that is the only article of clothing Amalia is wearing when she's found, "very different from the shabby ones she usually wore".
       The family history is complicated and ugly. Delia and her siblings have drifted apart, her mother and father separated long ago. "No, I no longer liked anything about the past", Delia admits, and given her relatives it's no surprise. Dad is a painter of cheap gaudy wall-fillers, an angry and unpleasant man with whom it's hard to see anybody getting along.
       Long ago another man, Caserta, had caused the family to fall apart over the affair he was apparently having with Amalia. The truth of what happened way back then -- with five year old Delia in the middle of it -- is only eventually revealed, though regardless of the details it sounds like it was only a matter of time before dad smacked Amalia around some and took off.
       Caserta, his mind muddling with age, is also still around, and played a part in Amalia's life again. Delia has to face that (and Caserta's son) too, as she tries to piece together who her mother really was.
       It all makes for a fairly intense account, with Delia in that verging on hysterical (or at least loss of self control) state not uncommon among those dealing with tragic death. Delia is full of love and hate, continuing to be torn apart by a brutal (physically and emotionally) family and not many good memories. It's the kind of family where Dad winds up telling Delia things like: "You were repulsive even as a child". No wonder she wants to forget the past, when even the present is this ugly.
       Ferrante's book is emotionally intense, and is at least an interesting account of a daughter with a lot of issues dealing with the loss of her mother, the tug of being her own woman versus that of recognising how very much she is her mother's daughter almost tearing her apart. But it's certainly not a pleasant read. Ferranate's vivid and brutally honest descriptions can impress, and probably do serve the story well, yet some of it is just plain disturbing (notably her description of arousal and trying to engage in any sort of sex, something that causes Delia to get sopping wet apparently from head to toe; when she tries to masturbate "my sex got so wet that the fingers slipped over it without purchase, and I could no longer tell if I was really touching myself or only imagined that I was"). Even the dedication -- 'For my mother' -- leaves an unpleasant taste (it ain't exactly a love-letter to mom ...).
       For those who like their family sagas down and dirty, Ferrante certainly delivers the goods. Delia's soul- (and fact-)searching are, in part, quite well done, and as she reveals more about the past in Delia's attempt to understand her family she does offer some vivid portraits and encounters. But we simply found it too grim and miserable.

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Links:

Troubling Love: Reviews: L'amore molesto - the film: Elena Ferrante: Other books by Elena Ferrante under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Elena Ferrante is the pen-name of a popular Italian author.

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© 2006-2014 the complete review

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