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Frantumaglia & The Beach at Night – November Books of the Month

Author: Bill Godber
Newspaper: Turnaround
Date: Nov 7 2016

Published in tandem with Frantumaglia is The Beach at Night, an illustrated children’s book that tells the story of a lost doll (a theme readers will recognise from Ferrante’s other works). It was perhaps surprising that Ferrante would chose to produce a children’s book; her worlds are violent, raw and often unforgiving – not what you’d necessarily expect from a children’s author. The Beach at Night focuses on the tale at the center of The Lost Daughter, Ferrante’s 2006 novel that she considers a turning point in her development as a writer. This time, the tale takes the form of a fable, told from the point of view of the doll Celina, who is lost overnight on a beach during a family outing. In typical Ferrante fashion, we see Celina dealing with many of the sensations adult characters do throughout her novels: jealousy, abandonment, sadness and dark dreams. That is, until the sun comes up and Celina is happily found.

What happens to Celina during that long night on the beach could be described as scary, especially to children aged six to ten, at which the book is aimed. But as Daniela Petracco of Europa Editions said in an interview with The Guardian, it is “a little creepy, but, you know, it’s Ferrante. It was never going to be a sunny story.” In a Times review, the book is “a dark tale with a complex girl-doll heroine and a malevolent male baddie for brave little readers.” In The Washington Post, “Ferrante has started a debate over whether a children’s book she’s about to publish is appropriate for children.” Entertainment Weekly even put together a list of the book’s five scariest lines.

Ultimately though, this is a tale for children, with a happy ending and a strong message. It is also a tale for adults, especially Ferrante fans who will recognise her unique style in its pages. With dream-like illustrations from Mara Cerri, The Beach at Night is a children’s book that only Ferrante could have written, and we can expect it to be a major title in the run up to Christmas.