I am not the first to say it: Men and women behave strictly according to their physical and psychological needs, whether positive or negative. This is how Olga is behaving in the 2002 novel, The Days of Abandonment, after her husband leaves her for another woman. A writer with two children living in Italy, Olga becomes frantic, impatient, less of a suitable mother, self-alienated (“It was the fault of the torture that my husband had inflicted”).

Days was written by the elusive Italian author, Elena Ferrante, and translated into English (seemingly very well) by Ann Goldstein. It is clear-eyed and searing, and accurately called unsentimental. Ferrante has a distinguished character in Olga. I am glad Italian readers turned the book into a best-seller.