First of all, the Spanish translation of this book's title is something like "The Debts of the Body," which, honestly, I think fits better with the plFirst of all, the Spanish translation of this book's title is something like "The Debts of the Body," which, honestly, I think fits better with the plot's accents. But then, both are pretty crude and unimaginative, Ferrante-style. (This characteristic was one that bored me in The Brilliant Friend, but is now one of my favourite things about these page-turners.)
Second of all, my rating is probably influenced by the fact that this particular book dwells on my very favourite topics: Sex, left-winged politics, feminism, university life, intelligent people living the vida loca (hearts for Mariarosa). EXHILARATING STUFF.
Last but not least: I had to read over 1000 pages to finally grasp WHAT is the genius of Ferrante. To write four lengthy novels on the (very interesting) life of two women in this dense, detailed way requires a whole lot of mental clarity. Not only that, but the novel has a psychoanalitical subplot or intonation that is plain marvelous: The way that the past is embroiled with the present, the infinite layers that relationships and human behaviour can reveal, and the unexpected but certain implications that all events have in the building up of a person. THAT is psychoanalisis, a (pardon me) pseudo-science that Ferrante has given faith to in the marvelous intricacy of these novels. I sort of want to read them all over again because I feel like I will understand the hints at the future given in the past better now.
I used to think that this "let me go back and check at the hints" things was something that only could be achieved in novels of mystery or Harry Potter, but no. I've learned the lesson: Realism also has that the power, to mesh every page into powerful significance....more
I am giving this book five stars in rebellion of what I have realized is a bad habit of mine: A severe inability to call a book a "masterpiece" (whichI am giving this book five stars in rebellion of what I have realized is a bad habit of mine: A severe inability to call a book a "masterpiece" (which is what five stars denote, right?) immediately after reading it, or even whilst reading it. It HAS to be in retrospective; how much a book comes back to haunt me is the indicator of how good it is. Although this is probably a pretty good marker for what a "masterpiece" is, one of its side effects is that it supports the snobbish airs I give myself, where my supposed critical eye is just so fucking good that no book deserves five stars unless its, like, Lés Miserablés or something. (It's a lie. My critical eye sucks. In my opinion, Harry Potter is the greatest literary artwork on Earth.)
Anyhow, I think this book will come back to haunt me. If not this individual novel, then the four volume story of Lenú and Lila; I only started the third one a few hours ago and am already a hundred pages into it. (The same thing happened to me with The Story of a New Name. But that's also due my other habit of being better at starting novels than at finishing them.)
ALAS! In my humble opinion, this book is better than the first one. More profound, lacks the very boring spells, developed more of the setting descriptions I was missing in the first one. (Who doesn't want to know what a poor mid-20th century Naples neighbourhood looks like, after all?) It is, in fact, more deserving of a higher rating than My Brilliant Friend. I'm not JUST a petty snob, and the Average Goodreads Ratings are there to prove my point.
Edited to add: I RAHGRAT MY FIVE STARS. 4.5 stars for Elena Ferrante, because of a very particular point: Why couldn't she write just a tad more about Franco Mari? Although I'm thoroughly convinced that this is an autobiography, and thus I won't recriminate Ferrante for not making him Lenú's final boyfriend (he is SO the Jess to Lenú's Rory Gilmore), I cannot believe that the exciting things that happened with him were just brushed over. Communism? Forbidden nightly encounters? Trips to Paris? Why the heck was this just mentioned? Especially when Lenú seemed to have become such a dashing left-winged diva with him, in contrast with the endearingly irritating naiveté she was all the rest of the time....more
Probably what spurred most of the readers of this book to give it a try is the "Ferrante phenomenon." She is everywhere. My Instagram feed, my TwitterProbably what spurred most of the readers of this book to give it a try is the "Ferrante phenomenon." She is everywhere. My Instagram feed, my Twitter feed, several magazine articles. Through the first hundred and so pages of the novel, though, I was confused; what does it have that has made all sorts of readers declare it to be a marvel? Answer: Nothing, really.
It doesn't have an amazing plot. It isn't written in an otherworldly style. It's entertaining, but no Game of Thrones thriller.
It is at most a fairly good book: So why the phenomenon? The Pyschology major in me had to give it SOME theory or other, so here it is:
What is endearing about Lenu and Lila's story is that we have all, particularly women who have lived through the intricacies of best-friendship, felt at some point or another like a Lena and/or a Lila. It is what most cheap magazines are wont to call FRENEMIES.
I, at least, saw myself reflected in Lenu's obsession with Lila, Lila's infinite love and envy for Lenu, their endless and competitive habit of comparing oneself to the other, the sexual undertones of their relationship, their mutual dependancy and dread of said dependancy, etcetera etcetera. It is the classical frenemy story but set in the novel landscape of a poor Neapolitan neighbourhood.
Yes, I enjoyed this book, and yes, I caught myself getting *feels* over it, and yes, I want to read the second book. But, no, I will not share a picture in Instagram declaring it the greatest book I've read so far in 2016. I'm sorry, Ferrante, but the hipster in me wants to rebel against your mainstreamness....more
The stories were too drawn-out. I also felt that at times Sacks used scientific language to give the stories a medical air, because they surely didn'tThe stories were too drawn-out. I also felt that at times Sacks used scientific language to give the stories a medical air, because they surely didn't communciate anything. Also, there were some frankly upsetting misconceptualizations, such as the gross misunderstanding of Kosher food in the Anthropologist in Mars story. Anyhow, I do aprecciate the fact that this book played an important role in "humanizing" people with mental problems, and it did so fairly well. I just didn't enjoy it. (Probably because I'm a Pschology major forced to read this for class, lol.)...more