A divorced Italian woman, an academic, goes on vacation to a beach resort; she rents a small house and stays by herself. She spends her days between the beach and small bars and cafes. She reminisces to herself about her life as a mother and her relationship with her daughters. She meets a loud, obnoxious family on the beach, a mother with a small child surrounded by relatives. The little girl loses her doll, and the narrator commits a senseless act of cruelty.
As one reviewer put it, The Lost Daughter reads like a psychological thriller. The narrator struggles with highly ambivalent feelings towards her children as the encounter with the family she meets on the beach stimulates feelings and memories and causes her to reflect on her own life. The prose is tough and uncompromising; this is no sentimental Mother's Day card of a book. The narrator has a lot of anger towards her daughters and towards herself. Though she loves her daughters, she has no illusions either that motherhood was a garden of roses, or that her daughters' childhood was.
The Lost Daughter is the kind of edgy, hard book that Europa specializes in. It takes a subject about which much has been written and casts a new light on it, or at least a light seldom shone. Not being a mother myself I can't say how well mothers will relate to it, but I have a feeling that somewhere this book will resonate with anyone who's loved anyone, not just mothers and children. It's about the dark side of love, the underside of it if you will, and it will challenge the reader to confront dark feelings of his or her own. It's also a very quick read, suspenseful and gripping, that will keep you turning the pages, and keep you thinking once you've put the book down.