Since the publication of My Brilliant Friend, the first of the Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante's fame as one of our most compelling, insightful, and stylish contemporary authors has grown enormously. Read more...
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Since the publication of My Brilliant Friend, the first of the Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante's fame as one of our most compelling, insightful, and stylish contemporary authors has grown enormously. She has gained admirers among authors--Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Strout, Claire Messud, to name a few--and critics--James Wood, John Freeman, Eugenia Williamson, for example. But her most resounding success has undoubtedly been with readers, who have discovered in Ferrante a writer who speaks with great power and beauty of the mysteries of belonging, human relationships, love, family, and friendship.
In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women have attempted are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Surpassing the rapturous storytelling of the previous titles in the Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name), Ferrante here reunites Elena and Lil, two childhood friends, who dissect subjects as complicated as their own relationship, including feminism and class, men and women, mothers and children, sex and violence, and origin and destiny. As the narrative unfolds in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the fiery Lila stays in Naples, having escaped an abusive marriage, and lives platonically with a man from the neighborhood, along with her young, possibly illegitimate son. The feisty Elena leaves town, graduates from a university in Pisa, publishes a successful book, marries an upper-class professor, and moves to Florence, where she gives birth to two daughters. Against the backdrop of student revolution and right-wing reaction, the two women’s tumultuous friendship seesaws up and down as each tries to outdo the other. “You wanted to write novels,” Lila tells Elena. “I created a novel with real people, with real blood, in reality.” Are the two women less opposites than parts of a whole? The book concludes not with a duality but with a surprising new triangle involving Nino, another homegrown intellectual, who loves both women. (Sept.)