A subtle and delicate novel with many hints of anxiety throughout. In The Lost Daughter, Ferrante delves into the psychological implications of being a mother, of the delicate and often complex relationship between mothers and daughters.
Our main character and narrator, Leda, is a middle-aged mother of two grownup daughters, now a college professor on vacation. Throughout Ferrante’s writing we feel uncomfortable about Leda as she recounts her life as a mother, (how she abruptly abandons her daughters for three years when they were young), and as she becomes obsessed and fixated on a young mother, Nina, that she observes on the beach, and ultimately how in an intense psychological moment she steals a doll that belongs to Nina’s daughter.
I thought the novel was absolutely brilliant, in the small but significant moments of intensity throughout Leda’s actions and interactions with Nina and her Neapolitan family. This reader finds herself agreeing with most of Leda’s ideas about motherhood and the judgement of societal and familial norms of what a perfect mother should be, but at the same time I felt Leda’s actions made her an unlikeable narrator. It’s almost as if Ferrante is playing a game with her readers, testing our limits of what we expect from mothers and what we ultimately judge as “bad mothering”.
A must-read for the sheer ability of the author in capturing our full attention, you won’t be able to look away!