The Last Book I Loved: Troubling Love

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According to Europa Edition’s website, Elena Ferrante, one of Italy’s most important and acclaimed contemporary authors, has successfully shunned public attention and kept her whereabouts and her true identity concealed. I understand.

Troubling Love is a brilliant rendering of a woman who looks too closely at love and sex.

“They behaved with that man the way my father imagined women behaved, the way he imagined his wife behaved as soon as he turned his back, the way Amalia, too, perhaps, had for her whole life dreamed of behaving: a woman of the world who bends over without having to place two fingers at the center of her neckline, crosses her legs without worrying about her skirt, laughs coarsely, covers herself with costly objects, her whole body brimming with indiscriminate sexual offerings, ready to joust face to face with men in the arena of the obscene.”

With underwear tossed everywhere, the book’s premise is the haphazard probing of the mystery of a drowned mother by an angry daughter. Water is left running, Antonioni-style, sweat and grime portend a dirty end; Italy never seemed so dark.

It’s an important book; few authors admit other than Hallmark feelings for mothers, squeamishness about sex from the woman’s point-of-view is certainly not commercial, and let’s ignore how to render the unpleasantness of periods.

Ferrante’s writing’s done in a kind of swoon, melding the past with the present with shocking results of perversity, violence, and bodily functions. Who was Mom? And even better, Who does that make me? The only novel that competes with its visceral dismembering of Mom is Renaldo Arenas’ The Assault.  Nasty Love, the film version of Troubling Love, gets it right.


Bio: Terese Svoboda's most recent book, Great American Desert, contains stories about climate from prehistoric times to the future. Her second novel, A Drink Called Paradise, traced the effects of a atomic poisoning in the Pacific. She also wrote the libretto for WET, an opera about water shortage that premiered at LA's RedCat Theater, and produced a nationally screened video, EPA POISONS EPA about a lawyer who becomes severely handicapped by pollution in EPA's national headquarters. In a starred review of Great American Desert, Kirkus writes: “[Svoboda's] enigmatic sentences, elliptical narratives, and percussive plots delve into the possibilities of form, genre, and plausible futures, but always with an eye on the vast subterranean psychologies of her all-too-real creations.” More from this author →