on 13 June 2015
In the second 'Neapolitan' novel, Lila struggles with an increasingly difficult marriage, and Elena struggles to become a writer and to fit in to the intellectual class. In fact class and gender struggle feature stronly in these novels, as does the sense of inadequacy coming from poor origins, but there are also temporary, sometimes dramatic triumphs as the author subverts you frequently, and there is no danger of going to sleep while reading. Is Lila good or bad? Is the relationship between the two young women a healthy or destructive one? These shifts and questions come up for the reader, and it is never quite clear who is whose brilliant friend. Love, hostility, loyalty and suspicion pervade the relationship between them.
Elena has love affairs, but never stops loving Nino. The menace and influence of the Solara brothers is somehow always there in the background. There is a breathless quality to some of the writing, so the pages get turned quite fast.
on 16 August 2015
This follows on from 'My Brilliant Friend ' and charts the course of a friendship born in the slums of Naples. It is written in the first person and immediately engages you in the life of Elena and Lina. The latter is a mercurial, intelligent girl who seems to dominate the mind of her friend and although they travel along very different paths, they are inextricably linked. Elena studies hard and manages to escape the poverty of her childhood but Lina's fortunes are much more mixed. There are a lot of characters and it is sometimes hard to remember who's who, especially when using the Kindle but it's well worth printing off the cast list so you can refer to it whilst reading. Can't wait to read the next book in the series !
on 6 March 2016
Dense and rich and claustrophobic. Being inside the beautifully created characters and city settings is so complete that events slow to daily rhythms. Details are all there; the clothes, smells, the sausage factory. All relationships are tangled and intense and slow to change. I was lost in the totality of the suffocating world but frustrated by the inevitable repetition and slowness of 'real life'.
on 24 June 2015
As I am bi-lingual, I decided to order the second and third books of the Ferrante tetrology in English to evaluate the translation. To be sure, one who has lived in Italy and speaks the language, and one who has studied modern Italian history will surely appreciate the complexity of the social and cultural sophistication of this look at friendship, family, the impact of poverty in a community, the camorra, politcal activism, the role of unions in Italy as well as the struggles to be "successful" for both men and women in the Neopolitan setting of the 50's and 60's. As these books have received accolades in the US for some years even by respected journalists in the New York Times and The New Yorker to name a few, I will not recount the story of this book other than to say it is an excellent translation but that it cannot completely render the impact it has on the Italian reader. I remain surprised that it has been so widely read by men and women abroad as, in Italian, it surely appeals to women rather than men given its very "feminist" positioning. (although this is a rather simplistic manner of putting it) My final comment is to say that until the prestigious Corriere della Sera (Italian newspaper) published an article that Elena Ferrante was on a list of the one hundred most highly influential people in the world, the author's books circulated in Italy only among a limited author's and intellectual community without the wide appreciation gained abroad. If one attends to the comments about how Elena Greco's books come to be published, one can see how Italy has changed very little in its class structure....also an important aspect of the tetrology for any budding sociologist or student of Italian language and literature.
on 4 April 2016
The Story of a New Name picks up exactly where My Brilliant Friend left us.
‘I placed the box on the parapet, and pushed it slowly, a little at a time, until it fell into the river, as if it were her, Lila in person, plummeting, with her thoughts, words, the malice which she struck back at anyone, the way she appropriated me, as she did every person or thing or event or thought that touched her: book and shoes, sweetness and violence, the marriage and the wedding night, the return to the neighborhood in the new role of Signora Raffaella Carracci’.
As this excerpt from page 18 of the book tells us, Lila is now married. She married into the Carracci family to Stefano. Stefano has grown up as the son of Don Achille Carracci, a man murdered when Stefano was a young boy. He is now head of the family, managing various properties, including a very profitable grocery store. He is also ‘the owner’ of Lila. Throughout this novel we see the difficult & tempestuous marriage and we are exposed to the violence that carries through all the books. Lila will not be owned. She is very strong willed with passions and feelings of her own that cannot be tamed. These features of her personality are carried through the story.
It is now the 1960’s and Italy is in a state of change. Elena is on a very different path. She moves away from Naples to study and discovers both herself & a whole new world, a world in which she begins to thrive. Cracks appear in their relationship. ‘She’s acting like my mother, I thought with a little annoyance, she’s playing the grownup.’
Although Elena is constantly struggling with herself and her place in a society she wasn’t born into, she is now mixing with the educated, the political, the militant. Through it all she succeeds in completing her education.
‘I graduated in the following session, I avoided telling my parents, I was afraid my mother would feel it her duty to come and celebrate me………After such a long time, I really was pleased with myself. I wasn’t yet twenty-three and I had obtained a degree in literature with the highest grade. My father hadn’t gone beyond fifth grade in elementary school, my mother had stopped at second, none of my forebears, as far as I knew, had learned to read and write fluently. It had been an astonishing
on 16 January 2016
It is a long time since I read a book that kept me up most of the night, I just kept wanting to know what happened next. Now going to get the next book in the series. Can't wait.
on 25 July 2014
This very long novel is sensational in both the positive sense, and a little in the negative sense.
The writing is clear, rapid and truthful, the picture of a poor Naples neighbourhood in the 50s and 60s (but still in the shadow of the war) and a closely linked group of families is fascinating Lenu and Lina, the brilliant friends, carry the story with its devastating account of their struggle to break out of the circle of poverty, illiteracy and male violence. Elena (Lenu), the narrator is haunted by the unpredictable violent genius of her friend, and also fears that in some way she is cannibalizing her friend's spirit, or being cannibalized by it. It is explicitly stated in the novel that the rich and fortunate (and perhaps men too) exert a perpetual warlike oppression to keep the poor at the bottom of the heap, but chance and bad choices play a role too and we see this in the subtle workings of the plot,
Subtle, but sensational. You lose count of the times the rug is pulled from under your feet. It's an exciting switchback ride, with no end in sight, and a good deal of melodrama or opera within the realism. Both Lenu and Lina, distorting mirrors of each other, are that little bit larger than life.
There's no question of stopping reading about them, however. You just can't. The 3rd volume is out in a month, and it now seems probable there'll be a 4th. Can't wait.
It would be comforting, on a different matter, to think that the habitual male violence against women throughout the book was a purely local problem. We are so quiet about it in the U.K, but statistically there are more of these crimes here.
on 13 October 2015
A phenomenal read, as expected, but I'm glad I'd read the previous volume in the series. There are quite a few characters and some have more than one name. However, the context usually provides the necessary information. I found it impossible not to view these characters as real people and became increasingly irate at the self-cantered manipulations of Lila. Surely this is the sign of an excellent novel!
on 22 February 2016
The second of the Neapolitan novels, in which we learn the story of Lila's marriage - domestic violence and domestic sexual violence, her work to re-make her wedding photograph as contemporary art, her redesign of her shoeshop into an upmarket emporium, her infidelity and its unhappy ending, and eventual rescue of a kind by childhood friends. Meanwhile Elena continues her slow move through the school system and up and out of Naples, writing her first novel towards the end of this volume and heading for an upmarket marriage….
I found it utterly gripping, as I did volume one, though I also find it hard to say why. I suspect it has something to do with the honesty - an almost unbearable honesty - with which the author depicts lived experience, and our mixed sympathy and whatever its opposite is in this context with the two central figures. Neither is admirable wholly - and this is honest and human - but both have many admirable qualities. Meanwhile we continue to learn about life in Naples and elsewhere in Italy and the politics and mores of a (just slightly) bygone era...
on 17 September 2015
I enjoyed this second book in the series more than the first because I found the characters more engaging, and I was more interested in the two lead protagonists and their relationship with each other and their peers this time. The post-war social/historical aspect of life in Naples for this socio-economic group is also fascinating. I plan to continue reading the rest of the series.