Book Review

Book Review | The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante …beach read with a bite

June 7th, 2022

Hi Readers!

You may know, if you’ve been reading my blog awhile, I already consider Ferrante a favourite author. But I’ve never actually dipped into her earlier works from before the Neopolitan trilogy. This is mainly because I just don’t want to never have a new Ferrante book to read. But I decided to finally make a start on them this Summer with The Lost Daughter.

| Published: 2008 by Europa Editions |
| Translated by: Ann Goldstein |
| Genre: Contemporary |
| Themes: Motherhood, Italy |
| Length: 140 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Leda, a middle-aged divorcée, is alone for the first time in years after her two adult daughters leave home to live with their father in Toronto. Enjoying an unexpected sense of liberty, she heads to the Ionian coast for a vacation.

But she soon finds herself intrigued by Nina, a young mother on the beach, eventually striking up a conversation with her. After Nina confides a dark secret, one seemingly trivial occurrence leads to events that could destroy Nina’s family. 

The Lost Daughter is a beach read with a bite.

Elena Ferrante is a master at exploring themes with a harsh, uncensored honesty. In The Lost Daughter motherhood is at the centre, and she doesn’t hold back when discussing the difficult realities that come with it.

“The hardest things to talk about are the ones we ourselves can’t understand.”

At the centre of the story is Elena, a divorced mother whose now grown up children have moved across the world to live with their father. Alone for the first time in two decades, she feels elated freedom from motherhood, and takes an extended vacation to the sea, where she becames ever so slightly obsessed with a mother and daughter she comes across one day on the beach.

“How foolish to think you can tell your children about yourself before they’re at least fifty. To ask to be seen by them as a person and not as a function. To say : I am your history, you begin from me, listen to me, it could be useful to you.”

I just love how this book has all the feels of a beach read. The majority is set on a beach, with the main character spending most of the time reading in the sun; but it’s dark. On the surface it’s a picture perfect holiday, but the atmosphere is eerie, and you’re just waiting for a storm to happen.

The style is similar to that of her Neopolitan Novels, and the main character also reminded me of Lenu in that she’s also unlikable and tricky to understand. But I did also feel sympathy for her and her struggles with motherhood.

I also think the title is genius because it could be referring to so many things. There’s just so much about this book that can be dissected and that’s why I consider Ferrante a favourite author of mine. All of her books are so layered and full of depth. Her characters aren’t simple, they’re complicated and flawed, and because of that feel real.

Now I can’t wait to watch the Maggie Gyllanhall adaptation, because I literally read this book in Olivia Colman’s voice. What a perfect casting choice that was!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X