Elena Ferrante; Mara Cerri (Illustrator); Ann Goldstein (Translator)
Browsing through my local independent bookstore I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of Elena Ferrante’s The Beach at Night. As a huge fan of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, I was thrilled to see that she had also written a children’s book. However, after reading this dark tale I would caution parents to put into consideration the cultural differences. Ferrante writes in Italian and her books are translated into English so there are some liberties taken. It should also be noted that Europeans do not necessarily deem certain books for children and others for adults. Rather they let the reader decide once the book has been published. This might explain why the English audio edition of The Beach at Night, read by Natalie Portman, has been classified for adults.
The story is told from the point of view of a doll named Celina. Her owner, and mother figure Mati gets a new cat and forgets Celina on the beach one night. Celina has a very traumatic evening alone on the beach. First the Mean Beach Attendant of Sunset, a dark and sexually suggestive villain, tries to steal all the words Mati taught her, then Celina is almost melted by the fire, and lastly, she nearly drowns. Celina is eventually rescued by Mati’s new cat, who she had been jealous of in the beginning.
The Beach at Night certainly tackles subjects that we in America would consider adult content, but the story is written in the classic Ferrante manner ― beautifully. Parents will have to decide if they think this book is appropriate for children ages eight to ten (the ages the publisher recommends the book for), keeping in mind the dark subject matter, sexual undertones, and the use of profanity (there is a swear word included in the text).
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- “Ferrante fans may well find ‘The Beach at Night’ intriguing, and it is certainly beautifully written.”
—The Washington Post
- “Cerri’s eerie scenes of the glassy-eyed doll are well-suited to the ominous nature of Ferrante’s story, but although Celina and Mati are eventually reunited, it’s the disconcerting combination of the doll’s intensely human emotions and complete lack of agency that leaves the strongest impression.”
- “A complex and fascinating read.”
- “…translated beautifully and uncompromisingly by Ann Goldstein, The Beach at Night is a dark tale with a complex girl-doll heroine and malevolent baddie for brave little readers…classic Elena for beginners and their Ferrante-fevered parents.”
—Times of London
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
- Ricky, the Rock That Couldn’t Roll, Jay Miletsky