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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Days of Abandonment

Elena Ferrante

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To purchase The Days of Abandonment

Title: The Days of Abandonment
Author: Elena Ferrante
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 189 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Days of Abandonment - US
The Days of Abandonment - UK
The Days of Abandonment - Canada
The Days of Abandonment - India
Les Jours de mon abandon - France
Tage des Verlassenwerdens - Deutschland
I giorni dell'abbandono - Italia
Los días del abandono - España
  • Italian title: I giorni dell'abbandono
  • Translated by Ann Goldstein
  • I giorni dell'abbandono was made into a film in 2005, directed by Roberto Faenza

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Our Assessment:

B+ : convincing but unpleasant

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
London Rev. of Books . 21/9/2006 Daniel Soar
The NY Times A 25/8/2005 Janet Maslin
The NY Times Book Rev. . 25/9/2005 Jean Hanff Korelitz
The New Yorker . 31/10/2005 .
The Times . 22/7/2006 Kate Saunders

  From the Reviews:
  • "The writer is immensely self-aware and her frankness is stunning (.....) The translation is idiosyncratic in ways that only heighten its meaning." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • "Ferrante's theme, while a staple of commercial fiction and television dramas, has seldom received such close scrutiny in literary fiction. . (...) Ferrante (...) makes her heroine a new and individual character in a well-worn story." - Jean Hanff Korelitz, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(D)eeply observed, excruciatingly blunt" - The New Yorker

  • "(Y)ou wonít find a more harrowing dissection of the dumped woman. Pay attention, anyone considering a spot of adultery -- this is what youíll be doing to your spouse, and it ainít pretty." - Kate Saunders, The Times

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 Days of Abandonment begins with Mario walking out on Olga, his wife of fifteen years, and their two children. It's an act that appears to come out of the blue, and it devastates Olga, who narrates this account of her 'days of abandonment.'
       Olga takes it hard. At first at least the absurdity of the situation is something to preoccupy her, the question of 'Why ?' It's not the first time that Mario has been tempted or strayed, but the past incidents pale beside this one; learning the truth -- there is, indeed, another woman, and it's not quite as out of nowhere as she had first thought -- is even more crushing.
       The Days of Abandonment is a detailed, personal account of Olga's now shattered life. She wanted to return to work years earlier, but her husband convinced her to stay at home and take care of the kids, and she agreed. Mario wasn't the centre of her universe, but he was dominant pillar in it. When he is gone she can barely keep it together. Her mind wanders, she snaps at her children (and at strangers), her life becomes a mess.
       It is a small story, centered around the family apartment, with few other major characters. Not much happens: there's the fate of the family dog (a pet Mario wanted, more than she had), an awkward neighbour (who turns out to be a gifted cellist) who is one of the few Olga can lean and rely on, but who she also, most of the time, doesn't want to let anywhere near her, Olga getting a job, Olga pestering her friends for information about Mario, a few confrontations with her husband.
       Mario literally just leaves, and does not even leave a contact address or number. He comes back to the apartment occasionally, but lives an entirely separate life, the exact nature of which Olga only slowly learns. The abrupt change from something close to domestic bliss -- a happy enough family -- is striking, and as Mario is only glimpsed in his encounters with Olga he remains largely a mystery.
       Ferrante uses a number of fairly obvious devices, such as the difficulty of establishing communication (not only does Olga not know how to reach Mario, she has trouble with her cellphone, her regular telephone, and even resorts to smashing a neighbour's window in order to get his attention), but the story is presented convincingly: it reads as (depressingly) authentic. The Days of Abandonment is unpleasant: Olga is not a very good parent (and though Mario tries to draw the children into his new life, he soon also tires of them), and Olga does not act very nicely to almost anyone she deals with. In particular, the ups and downs Olga experiences -- the respites, when it looks like she's getting her act together, only to fall apart again -- move the book along well.
       The Days of Abandonment appears true to life, and it is well written -- but the subject matter may not be to everyone's taste.

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The Days of Abandonment: Reviews: I giorni dell'abbandono - 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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© 2005-2022 the complete review

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