Book Review: Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante

Troubling Love
by Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translator)

Publication date: March 15th 2016
Publisher: Europa (first published 1992)
Pages: 139


A deeply observed, excruciatingly blunt novel.- The New Yorker “The raging, tormented voice of the author is something rare.”- The New York Times Following her mother’s untimely and mysterious death, Delia embarks on a voyage of discovery through the streets of her native Naples searching for the truth about her family. A series of mysterious telephone calls leads her to compelling and disturbing revelations about her mother’s final days. This stylish fiction from the author of The Days of Abandonment is set in a beguiling but often hostile Naples, whose chaotic, suffocating streets become one of the book’s central motifs. A story about mothers and daughters and the complicated knot of lies and emotions that binds them. Elena Ferrante’s previous novel, The Days of Abandonment, received excellent critical attention in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, Library Journal, and many other publications. Troubling Love is expected to follow in its footsteps.

Source: Goodreads


I picked this book up on a whim and I’m not sure I even had a look at the back cover before taking it out of the library.

Elena Ferrante is an Italian author and one I think I should have known about prior to reading this. In reality, I’d never even heard of her before but from some research I believe this was her first book, initially published in 1992. The story follows a cartoonist from Rome named Delia who returns to her hometown for the funeral of her mother. Reports state that her mother, Amalia, committed suicide yet Delia is determined to find the truth.

I wasn’t keen on this book from the start and it certainly didn’t have me gripped. A lot of the time I found that I didn’t actually know what was happening, despite reading with care. This meant that I didn’t really care for or like any of the characters, all of whom I felt were underdeveloped. Full of tangents and distractions, I had to re-read a couple of parts to keep on track but I usually found that hadn’t missed much.

The style of writing was not my kind of thing either. While intended to be dark, it’s full of overwhelming description and we hear far too much about Delia’s bodily fluids for my liking. I personally feel that in 99.9% of situations, telling me on multiple occasions that the main character is removing her tampon is unnecessary, especially when it doesn’t add anything to the story line. And this wasn’t the only part I didn’t feel comfortable with; when I wasn’t completely confused, I was disturbed or disgusted by what I was reading.

Overall rating: I can certainly see the potential and appeal of “Troubling Love” to some but this just wasn’t my thing at all. Full of uncomfortable and necessary details that seem to have no purpose whatsoever, I felt there wasn’t really a story to tell. The characters were not likeable, the story was not interesting and I was generally confused. I’m giving Elena Ferrante‘s first novel 1 star.

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