She would do nothing for Troubling Love, the author of the novel told her publisher before its publication, because she had already done enough: she had written it.

No one knows who Elena Ferrante – now fashionably famous for the Neapolitan novels – is, whether it's her real name, or whether she’s a woman at all. Her self-restraint in protecting her work from her identity, separating the creative from the self, comes undone as soon as one dips into her fiction which is intense, violent, "full of flaming rage, lapse, failure, and tenuous psychic success".

The original title of her debut novel Troubling Love, L’Amore Molesto, resonates more with the content of the book than its English counterpart. There is something more troubling in the novel than just a "troubled love" between a mother and a daughter. It begins with Delia discovering that her mother, Amalia, has drowned on her way to visit her in Rome. The body has been found on the shore and is completely naked except for an expensive bra that she could not have owned given her frugal existence in a tiny, run-down apartment in Naples.

Delia is determined to solve the mystery of her mother’s last days but the more she unravels, the more she starts to question her own identity and realises that she and her mother were not as different as it seemed.

Troubling Love has won various prizes, including the Elsa Morante prize – one of Italy’s most prestigious awards for literature. It was also made into a film by Mario Martone in 1995.

Published in Italian in 1991. Translated into English by Ann Goldstein, published in 1996.