Yet again, I am enraptured by Elena Ferrante's sentences, which are often uncomfortably close to home.
The third book in the Neapolitan series continueYet again, I am enraptured by Elena Ferrante's sentences, which are often uncomfortably close to home.
The third book in the Neapolitan series continues the journey of Lila and Elena, as they move into their late 20s and then their 30s. Elena's struggles to rise above and escape her roots continue, as Lila seems to have given up and accepted that there is no point to denying one's roots.
I was a little less invested in this part of the series than the last. Perhaps this was because I find myself more 'in love' with Lila than Elena. The last book, which was essentially more of Lila's journey, permeated the reader with the same passion, rage and a sense of rebellion that Lila herself possessed. This book is 'quieter' because this is essentially more of Elena's story as she enters marriage & motherhood - her timidity, insecurities, immaturity and her inferiority complex.
If in the last two books, the political and the social are always present yet subtle, here the political and the social climate are more obvious and define the characters' journeys.
The book discusses themes of marriage and the woman's place in it. Through Elena, we see the suffocation of traditional marriages and trying to balance one's ambitions with motherhood. The novel also discusses the woman's place in the larger society. We see two different ways of identity search through the very different choices that Elena and Lila make. Often these are choices that are disruptive, self-destructive, immature and selfish, but these are what make Elena and Lila as real as they are.
We see the hatred and abuse that was always ever present, yet relatively distant, in the two friends' childhood erupt to full fledged violence as we see the struggle between the fascists and the communists. Both Lila and Elena cannot seem to escape the consequences of this violence.
Yet underneath it all, the series still remains the story of an intense friendship - often destructive, steeped in jealousy and hatred along with intense love and dependency.
As I approach the final chapter in Elena and Lila's journey, I am almost afraid - as if I will be losing track of women who have been my companions....more
My first thoughts after finishing this were: 1. I need to get hold of the next book ASAP. 2. I need to read about more incredible women. Real women. FlMy first thoughts after finishing this were: 1. I need to get hold of the next book ASAP. 2. I need to read about more incredible women. Real women. Fleshed out. Loving, hateful, selfish, ambitious, strong, weak, insecure. Real. Just like Elena Ferrante's women.
Reading this novel, I felt a flurry of emotions - furious, sad, victorious, insecure. All of these being the emotions felt by the protagonists, friends and rivals, Elena and Lila, whose journey through the series mirrors what it means to be human. This was an incredibly emotional reading experience because it opened up all those memories and feelings that I felt were best left in the past. As if triggering off a hidden part of me. The emotional turmoil, however, didn't stop me from raging through the novel.
Something's that's common between most of my favorite novels are the universality of themes. On one hand, this captures all the passions of being a young girl at the cusp of life - all the fieriness, the rages, the turmoil - along with the passions of intense friendships with the jealousies as well as the love. It's as if Elena Ferrante has made notes on your life and your friendships. I kept on thinking - 'How does she know this? That's does happen, that's so true!'
At the same time, it captures the impact of the socio-cultural context on the psyche. It asks the question: No matter how far you run, can you ever truly escape your roots? And should you try to escape at all? This portrays what it means to be a young woman growing up in the midst of poverty and patriarchy, with violence in every corner.
We see Elena and Lila battle the circumstances they grow up in. Elena does this by searching for an identity beyond the resounding poverty of her family and neighbourhod, by aspiring and killing herself working to 'make it' into a more cultured/educated way of being that she sees as superior. Lila does this by marrying Stefano, a part of the nouveau riche, who grew up in the same neighborhood. To do that, she kills her imagination, her passion for learning, her natural genius to play the wife, yet domesticity cannot suppress her unmistakable individuality. Both Elena and Lila are thwarted as their dreams about their future become illusions. Yet, neither seems to stop the battle.
These are not just novels to me. To be read and forgotten. These are almost my guidebooks, a guide to real life and adulthood, and how to deal with them....more