…wondrous…[the] story of a lost doll's utterly terrifying night at the beach, illustrated by Mara Cerri with a velvety spookiness…For Ferrante's grown-up readers…this book will be a small delight, another lovely and brutal glimpse of female subtext, of the complicated bonds between mothers and daughters in a cruel and indifferent world.
Accidentally left at the beach by a five-year-old girl named Mati, a doll endures a disturbing night by the sea in pseudonymous novelist Ferrante's (nominal) first children's book. Narrating in first person, the doll doesn't mince words, whether about the cat that she fears has displaced her ("I hope he has diarrhea, and vomits, and stinks so much that Mati is grossed out and gets rid of him") or about the Mean Beach Attendant who shows up, rakes the doll and other discarded objects into a pile, and sets them on fire, all while singing an obscene song ("Open your maw/ I've shit for your craw/ Drink up the pee/ Drink it for me"). Readers only learn the doll's name, Celina, when the beach attendant pulls a hook from his mouth, "hanging on a disgusting thread of saliva," to steal it from her. 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. Ages 6–10. (Nov.)
Praise for The Beach at Night
"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
So it's a children's book. The multitudinous adult fans of Ferrante's Neapolitan novels will surely want to rediscover their inner playfulness by reading this little fable at the center of 2009's The Lost Daughter, a book the author herself considers a significant milestone in her career. At its heart is a doll named Celina who experiences all the human emotions of fear, jealousy, and rejection when the little girl who owns her leaves her behind at the beach after receiving a kitten as a gift. Cerri's ocean blue-hued illustrations are both sensitive and sophisticated.
A once-favored doll abandoned at the beach anguishes at her fate. When Mati's father gives her a new cat at the beach, the 5-year-old white girl is so besotted she leaves her doll, this book's narrator, behind at the end of the day. The doll's understandable distress increases when she realizes she is at the mercy of the Mean Beach Attendant of Sunset and his friend, the Big Rake. As if being forgotten and then heaped into a pile with other beach detritus are not bad enough, when the doll protests the Mean Beach Attendant's assessment of her as "ugly," he sees opportunity in the words she holds inside her. Extending a Hook suspended on "a disgusting thread of saliva" from his mouth, he extracts the doll's name from her. It gets worse: she is nearly burned to death, then washed into the ocean, then further violated by the Mean Beach Attendant and his "disgusting thread of saliva." Toy protagonist notwithstanding, this book feels in no way like one for children. While many of the emotions articulated by the doll are convincingly childlike and not uncommon in children's literature—her extreme hostility to the usurping cat and her fascination with the repellent Beach Attendant are similar to themes explored in Sendak's Outside over There—their delivery undergoes no transmutation for a child audience. Neither does the book's language: while there are doubtless many small children who complain about boys who "pee on our feet with their little dickies" and who hear coarse language in public places (the Mean Beach Attendant sings, "Open your maw / I've shit for your craw / Drink up the pee"), they and their adult caregivers are unaccustomed to seeing them in print in picture books. Not that this is a true picture book: with many text-only double-page spreads and illustrations that do little to extend the text, this book will try the patience of most young listeners. The Italian edition of this book is marketed to children 10 and up; the advertised audience in the United States of 6 to 10 feels just plain wrong. For Ferrante's adult fans who are longing for occasional pictures to accompany her words. (Fiction. 14 & up)
|Publisher:||Europa Editions, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)|