Manfred, a surly mountaineer recently abandoned by his wife, rents the upstairs apartment in his home in the Dolomites to Marina, a woman from the city, and her difficult young son. Deeply suspicious by nature, especially of women, Manfred spies obsessively on Marina, in whose shortcomings as a mother he finds resonances of his own mother’s desertion of him in childhood. When Marina’s frustration over her son’s refusal to eat or sleep leads her to harm the child, Manfred steps in, and the silent power struggle between them escalates. Yet Manfred’s attraction to Marina is as powerful as his distrust. In this alternately shocking and moving novel, Cristina Comencini has created a complex, psychologically profound portrait of two damaged, vulnerable people and the painful bond that develops between them as they are drawn into each other’s worlds.
On a month-long alpine retreat without her husband, Marina and her young son are rescued by her landlord Manfred after an accident. Manfred, a misogynistic mountaineer who was abandoned by his wife, proceeds to transfer his hatred of womankind onto Marina. Despite the ill treatment, Marina finds herself drawn toward the abusive mountaineer, la Lina Wertm ller's Swept Away. Fifteen years later, Marina's fixation has grown into an obsession, and she returns only to find Manfred reunited with his wife. Italian writer-director Comencini's (The Missing Pages) narrative suffers from bone-dry prose, hasty shifts in tense and POV, and too many beat-by-beat chronicles of her characters' interior thoughts. Despite the interesting juxtaposition of this prose with the tropes of a romantic potboiler, the author's rarefied, minimalistic approach is austere to the point of alienation. Her protagonists remain ciphers, their motivations and desires unfathomable. The author's own film of her novel was released in Italy in 2011.