15th September 2005
One of the literary women who has felt most real to me in all my reading life is Olga, the narrator of Elena Ferrante’s incandescent 2002 novel, The Days of Abandonment. The action centres on the Turin apartment where Olga is forced into the role of abandoned-wife and single-mother to two young children (and a dog) after her husband leaves them for another life with ‘merciless rationality’. In the wake of his sudden departure, Olga begins to reevaluate their life together, the truth of her own, her trust in everything and everyone around her. When a newly installed lock traps Olga inside during a heatwave with a sick child and a poisoned dog, Ferrante subverts the usual association between women, interiority and domestic drama. Madness becomes a centripetal force connecting Olga’s mind and the apartment’s circumference. When I learned about centripetal forces, the memorable, if unusual, example in my textbook was a person spinning a fireball on a chain around their head. That’s exactly what reading this book feels like – a feminist classic in the tradition of The Yellow Wallpaper.
15th September 2005
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