Do you want to learn more about The Lost Daughter? Read on to explore the novel’s plot and characters, plus our review of the book.
The Lost Daughter reviewed
Many people enjoy the mystery genre because they like to be kept on their toes until the end. If you enjoy mysteries, you should explore The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante.
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist who feels that anonymity is key to her writing process. Nobody knows who Ferrante really is and what she looks like except her publisher.
Here we’ll review her most famous book, The Lost Daughter.
What is The Lost Daughter about?
The Lost Daughter focuses on Leda, a middle-aged English professor in Florence, Italy. After her two daughters, Marta and Bianca, move to Toronto to be with their father Gianni, Leda decides to give herself a break.
She goes to the Ionian coast for the summer and rents a lovely apartment. Leda establishes a routine where she visits the beach every day and always carries her books and papers with her. But instead of working, Leda often ends up studying the other people on the beach.
These people trigger different memories from Leda’s life, or she projects her emotions and thoughts onto them. One day, a large family from Naples appears, reminding Leda of her own childhood. Leda focuses on the young mother, Nina, and her daughter Elena.
While observing this Neapolitan family, Leda recalls her unhappy childhood. In particular, the way both her mother and uncle had a certain “violence” about them, and her mother always threatened she would leave her.
One day, while observing the family, Leda realizes that Nina’s young daughter Elena is missing. She joins the search and eventually helps find her. Elena’s disappearance reminded Leda of when her sister Bianca disappeared when they were little. She shares the story about Bianca with Rosaria, Nina’s sister-in-law.
Meanwhile, Elena is upset because she can’t find her doll, Nani. As Leda leaves the beach, she reveals that she has the doll in her bag, and this becomes the key plot element. Leda becomes obsessed with the doll, and her memories constitute much of the action.
Our review of The Lost Daughter
The Lost Daughter focuses on Leda’s emotional past. Throughout the book, she mentions her terrible relationship with her mother, which left a mark on her personality.
At the same time, Leda examines her relationship with her own daughters and how she abandoned them when they were young because she had an affair. When Leda discovers Nina’s cheating, she feels an instant connection with her.
Leda narrates from the perspective of a divorced woman whose children left home, and she doesn’t have anyone else in her life. This helps the readers to empathize with her melancholy. When it comes to the narration, Leda often gets lost in her memories.
As the story progresses, Leda’s narration becomes less reliable, to the point where she states she can’t understand herself and tries to find excuses for keeping Elena’s doll.
Leda has many unlikable characteristics. She develops an unhealthy obsession, is clingy, unhappy, and stuck in the past. Still, what makes this book memorable is that the author manages to make the main character relatable and believable, despite her flaws.
Through constant flashbacks, readers can find justifications for Leda’s actions and understand her on some level. There are women who can’t handle being a mother, women who cheat, and women who yell at their children over trivial things. This book does a great job of representing these women and discussing their characters.
That being said, many readers didn’t like how Leda comes off as whiny at certain moments. She dwells on the past and is often portrayed as melodramatic, which slowed the development of the plot for some readers.
Still, Ferrante’s novel is an unusual and interesting read.
If you enjoy Ferrante’s writing, you should explore her other novels. Some of the best Ferrante’s books are Days of Abandonment, Fragments (Frantumaglia), and Troubling Love.
You should also read her four-part series of Neapolitan novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. All four were translated by Ann Goldstein and published by Europa Editions.
Several of Ferrante’s books made the New York Times bestseller list.
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What is the main point of The Lost Daughter?
Many people agree that the main point of The Lost Daughter is that you shouldn’t let your past control you.
What does the title of The Lost Daughter refer to?
The lost daughter can have several meanings. It can represent Elena, the little girl who got lost at the beach. At the same time, the title can represent Leda herself, her painful childhood, and her complicated relationship with her mother. The title can also symbolize Leda’s daughters.
What makes Leda’s story compelling?
Leda’s story can be an (extreme) example of something every mother goes through. On one side, mothers want time for themselves, while on the other, they want to spend every minute with their children.
Through Lena’s stories and flashbacks to her childhood, we learn more about her past and childhood, which makes her story more compelling. Some may even say that her past justifies her actions to some degree.
Is there a The Lost Daughter TV show or film?
There is a movie with the same title on Netflix. It was released in 2021 and features Dakota Johnson, Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Paul Mescal, and Peter Sarsgaard. The movie was directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal and received three Oscar nominations.
Keep in mind that it contains spoilers from the book but differs from it in certain elements. For example, the movie is set on a Greek island.
Is there a The Lost Daughter audiobook?
Yes, there is an audio version of The Lost Daughter.