Sunday, 13 September 2015

febbre Ferrante

Unlike stories, real life, when it has passed, inclines towards obscurity, not clarity. I thought: now that Lila has let herself be seen so plainly, I must resign myself to not seeing her anymore. Elena Ferrante
Spent yesterday afternoon in the cafe pavilion at my local park enjoying the last of the summer sunshine and re-reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. I’m re-reading the first volume of the Neapolitan series because I’ve just finished the newly published fourth volume The Story of the Lost Child and fallen in love with it all over again - the sea, the stradone, the island of Ischia, the siren call of Naples and the brooding shadow of Vesuvius.
 

The Story of the Lost Child covers the late seventies and early eighties. Elena and Lila are now in their mid-thirties and resume an uneasy friendship. Elena has had considerable success with her writing career and left her husband for her lover, Nino, causing her mother-in-law who is highly influential in publishing circles to ostracize her and her mother to react with her usual fury. Lila is having considerable success in business in the early days computing and has regained some power and status in Naples.

The writing is intense and relentless. I found myself routing for Elena when she stands up to her mother-in-law while simultaneously condemning her for putting her lover before her daughters. Lila remains enigmatic and Elena always has the feeling that she is one step ahead of her. Both women become pregnant and there is a traumatic incident where Vesuvius erupts which triggers a nervous breakdown in Lila. The volcano seems to serve as a metaphor for Lila’s mental health. Bringing their daughters up together and sharing their care the two friends become close again until the traumatic event at the heart of the novel which changes everything and the quatrain ends as it started with the disappearance of Lila.

Have you caught Ferrante fever yet?

16 comments:

Audrey said...

Not directly, but between your enthusiasm and JoAnn's I can see that I need to succumb!

Bellezza Mjs said...

Oh, oh, oh! I pre-ordered the fourth of the Neopolitan novels, and it's on my kindle, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. So glad that you read it already, and have begun rereading the first again. I can picture myself doing the same thing. Ferrente Fever for all!

Alice said...

I love this series so much. I'm at the beginning of this novel and feeling pretty similarly with you - that she is finally standing up for herself and defining her identity is amazing, but Nino, WHY?

Karen K. said...

I started reading the first book during a trip to Italy this past spring but somehow I just couldn't get into it -- maybe it just wasn't the right time. I'll have to give it another try.

JoAnn said...

I'm reading this book now... amazing how quickly I've fallen back under Ferrante's spell. The writing is simply dazzling. I've only skimmed your post, but also have conflicting feelings about Elena. Can't wait to see where this book takes her and Lila, and me!

Anbolyn said...

I do have a tinge of the fever - I'm about half-way through the first novel and am very much caught up in the world of Ferrante. I've already bought the second novel so I don't have to wait when I finish the first!

Nadia A said...

I still need to read these. I want to get a complete set before I start them. I can't wait to get caught up in Ferrante Fever :)

Kat said...

Oh, I am loving The Story of a New Name (as you know). It's rather nice that so many of us are reading this very good series at the same time. I find Lila exasperating, and Elena so jealous, but of course I prefer Elena and am sympathetic to her difficult leaving of the neighborhood. Poor Lila--a nervous breakdown; I'm not surprised. So Elena gets Nino, does she? Such good books--and we all have these difficult friendships, at least at times.

Sunday Taylor said...

Yes, I have caught Ferrante fever! You were one of the first ones to spread the word! I have read the first one and now need to get to the second. Such an intense and unusual series of books. Really captures that particular Italian experience, especially the world of women.

Arti said...

Fever indeed! I've been seeing this name Elena Ferrante all over the Web recently but I must admit I haven't read any of her books. Sounds like she has many fans and her books might just be a good choice to make into movies. ;)

Jayne said...

I haven't read any of these yet, so they're now on my TBR list, thank you for the recommendation!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I really need to get back to Signorina Ferrante.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nicola, I can't see any other way of messaging so I'm sending it here. Your profile mentions that you are interested in recommendations for contemporary fiction. I highly recommend Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2013). It's very different but I loved it. Best wishes LW

Cathy Daniel said...

Another one for my reading list - am off on hols this weekend so maybe I'll hunt this one down and read in on a warm beach in Cyprus. Thanks for the info. xCathy

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, look forward to your review!

Bellezza, I'm Ferrante'd out now!

Alice, yeah, I knew Nino was a wrong'un from the start!

Karen K, it's not everybody's cup of tea and sometimes you just read books at the wrong time

JoAnn, yes when you think about it none of the characters are particularly pleasant!

Anbolyn, it's infectious ...

Nadia, there's no turning back ...

Kat, yes, although I disliked Lila first time around, on a second reading I find that she always comes through for Elena in obscure ways.

Sunday, I would like to visit Naples after reading these books.

Aarti, actually a film would be interesting.

Jayne, once you start, you can't stop ...

Natalie, Signorina Ferrante, love it!!

Cathy, Cyprus! I'm jealous, enjoy your holiday reading.

Vintage Reading said...

Anon, thank you for the recommendation, have some birthday book tokens so I've added it to my tbr list!