The Lost Daughter

Leda is a middle-aged divorcee who loves her work as an English teacher at the university in Florence. Her grown up daughters are with their father in Canada and she decides to take a holiday on the coast in Southern Italy. She finds an apartment to rent and everyday sets off with her towel and swimming things and works under an umbrella at the beach. Her routine is just as she’d hoped.

But also on the beach are a Neapolitan family who Leda becomes increasingly involved with. What starts as friendship between Leda and the young mother though, begins to unravel the reasons why Leda is not with her daughters and husband and the summer starts to take a menacing and at times, threatening turn.

That Leda feels liberated to be away from her daughters is the starting point for a ‘frank novel of maternal ambivalence’ (The New Yorker), and I liked the way Ferrante talks openly about motherhood. For me Leda’s conflicting feelings over being a mother with a career were the most interesting parts of the book. Her behaviour towards the Neapolitan family and especially Nina and her young daughter Elena I found bizarre and while the feeling of threat was very real and uncomfortable to read I didn’t really have any sympathy for any one. I wouldn’t like to meet any of them on holiday.

17 thoughts on “The Lost Daughter

    1. I haven’t read any others, I think it was the draw of the film by Maggie Gyllenhaal and with Olivia Coleman, I thought if they’re invested it must be good! I think I was missing something, may be I’m just too shallow?

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    1. It is my first yes, she is one of those writers I’ve heard great things about but this just didn’t work for me. I think it was the story though rather than the writing, I’m not put off reading something else by her, I hope you enjoy My Brilliant Friend!

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      1. I don’t know – apparently “Elena Ferrante” is a pseudonym for a famous Italian novelist, but her (his?) true identity is a big secret, a bit like Banksy. Maybe people in the know know, if you know what I mean! So it seems odd that she (he?) has also named a character Elena…

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  1. This started so well! I was imagining a lovely beach holiday in the south of Italy and can’t understand why it all went wrong! Very intriguing.
    I haven’t read anything by this author and am quite tempted, despite your warning that the characters are unpleasant.

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    1. Read it Rose and tell me what you think, I can’t help but think I’ve missed something, I don’t really know what I think of it to be honest! I realise I said her behaviour was bizarre and then nothing else, but then I’d be giving it all away, it’s very short 140 pages. I wouldn’t discount reading something else by her, it was the story that I didn’t get on with.

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      1. I had already added this to my list, Jane, but at only 140 pages The Lost Daughter is even more appealing.
        My library have this as an e-book but I’ll keep looking for a paper copy, can’t manage any more screen time than I already do.

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