I am not sure what to make of this book (The Lost Daughter) I just read by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante. I checked the novel out from the library because I'd read an article about Ferrante in The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/elena-ferrante-liking-like). What I discovered after reading The Lost Daughter was that it wasn't part of the series of novels about female friendship discussed in the New Yorker article. Instead, it was about a middle-aged woman reflecting on her relationship with her ex-husband and her distant, adult daughters. The story of her relationship with her daughters is told in back story, while the present action places the narrator at the beach for a solitary vacation. The narrator (and main character) is a bit unusual in that her actions are fairly unlikable and incomprehensible--she steals a young girl's doll, for example, for reasons that are not clear to us or to herself.
The New Yorker article touches on this issue of likability--how important is it that we like the main character of a novel? I was both repelled and entranced by the narrator. Her feelings and actions are both hard to understand and deeply familiar. Describing a moment when her daughter, Bianca, was lost at the beach: "She was crying when they found her, when they brought her back to me. I was crying too, with happiness, with relief, but meanwhile I was also screaming with rage, like my mother, because of the crushing weight of responsibility, the bond that strangles, and with my free arm I dragged my firstborn, yelling, you'll pay for this, Bianca, you'll see when we get home, you must never go off again--never." The narrator's ambivalent feelings about her daughters--how much she loves them, but how suffocated she feels by them--made me uncomfortable because of how much I could identify with them.