Ties by Domenico Starnone


The author is married to Anita Raja, the woman identified as writing under the pen name of Elena Ferrante (I've read and written about her Neopolitan Quartet). One of her first books, The Days of Abandonment is, according to the NYT review of this book, the story of a woman with two children whose husband leaves her for a younger woman. Ties widens that story to include the husband's point of view, as well as those of the adult children.

The first chapter is Vanda's terror and rage at being left; Aldo then takes us to the present when they are in their 70s and we learn that after four years with Lidia, Aldo returned to the family. He describes a bit of their present life:  the children have grown and left home, the two are about to leave for a week at the beach, and he has a couple of unpleasant exchanges when he is cheated of money. They have a pleasant vacation but return to terrible chaos in their apartment:  all their belongings are smashed and ruined, papers and pictures destroyed, but neither cash nor jewelry was taken. Aldo encourages Vanda to go to sleep while he begins cleaning up.

He sees the letters Vanda wrote to him when he left and relives those times. It's hard to say who is ultimately more unpleasant. Aldo who abandoned his wife and children, because the times dictated that you should not deny your passion? A man who thought he was only betraying his wife and this decision had nothing to do with his children? Or Vanda who makes it clear when he returns that he has no say in the household or questions of raising the children and that if he disagreed with her, he could get out? 

This short book succeeded in making me feel uncomfortable and not enlightened. I looked back at what I wrote about the Neopolitan Quartet and each of them, along with intense and minute considerations of what each party to a dispute thought and felt, had references and evocations of the wider world and how we live in it.

Domenico Starnone, Ties, Europa Editions, 2017, 144 pages (I read the Kindle version). Available at the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

1 comment


  • I believe that D.S. simply published in his book his wife’s real letters that she sent him during their time of crisis and were the basis for the Days of Abandonment but in a more polished revised and modern approach to women’s strong characteristics, as she reinvent herself and not going back to her husband. Since Anita/ Elena already published the Days of Abandonment he then could publish his version again using her letters, without causing any damage to her work and gain a good start for his book.


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