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L'amica geniale #3

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

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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 abusive husband and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which have opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women have pushed 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.

418 pages, Paperback

First published October 30, 2013

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About the author

Elena Ferrante

48 books13.6k followers
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist. Ferrante's books, originally published in Italian, have been translated into many languages. Her four-book series of Neapolitan Novels are her most widely known works.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,796 reviews
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,629 followers
August 10, 2015
This book left me speechless.

I've spent the last few weeks reading Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, and I have grown increasingly attached to her two main characters, Elena and Lila. These women are so well-drawn and seem so real that I was anxious about what will happen to them. When I finished this book last night — on the edge of my seat, by the way, because there was yet another dramatic ending — I was so unsteady that I had to rest a moment, pondering the fates of the women.

I refuse to spoil anything for readers who have not yet read these wonderful novels, but I will say that in Book Three, the friendship of Elena and Lila is repeatedly tested. The story covers them from their 20s and into their 30s, and both women experienced significant changes in their careers and families, especially as the political climate of Italy grew more tense and violent.

What I especially liked about this third novel was Elena's foray into feminism and politics as she searched for ways to be involved and for subjects to write about. Through her experiences, we get a crash course in the riots and protests that occurred in the 1960s and '70s as communists fought fascists, and everywhere our heroines turned, they risked violence, either on the street or at home.

When I started the first book earlier this summer, I did not expect to like this series. I thought there were too many characters and nicknames to remember, and I didn't see much point in following around two girls in a poor neighborhood in Naples. But as the girls grew up, I began to appreciate their significance. Now that I have read the first three books, I would compare this series to a tree. In Book One, Ferrante had to plant the seeds of the story — those seeds were the stories and events that Elena and Lila faced as children, and each one has long-lasting consequences. In Books Two and Three, the stories are much deeper and more powerful, because the tree has taken root and is stronger.

For example, who would have thought that when Lila designed a men's shoe in book one, that it would still be talked about in book three? Or that when she held a knife to a man's throat to protect herself and Elena, that it would turn out to be a pivotal point in the story? Or the day that Elena and Lila decided to skip school and walk as far away as they can, that it would hold significance years later?

"I can't wait to leave [the neighborhood]," I exclaimed.

"You're strong," [Lila] answered, to my astonishment. "I have never been. The better and truer you feel, the farther away you go. If I merely pass through the tunnel of the stradone, I'm scared. Remember when we tried to get to the sea but it started raining? Which of us wanted to keep going and which of us made an about-face, you or me?"

[Elena wanted to keep going, by the way]

I think what Ferrante has done here is remarkable for several reasons. First, she has created an incredible story of female friendship, filled with every human emotion, including jealousy, rage, fear, and respect. As I read these books, I wondered why there aren't more novels about female friendship; it seems most modern novels are either about family dynamics or romantic love. (Or some kind of dystopia/apocalypse, but you get my drift.)

I also think these novels are extraordinary for the choices the women make as a way to try and escape poverty: Elena hopes that schooling and moving away will better her life, but Lila is forced to leave school and instead tries marriage, which didn't work out as well as planned. And Book Three is filled with even more choices the women are forced to make, and a few of their decisions are shocking.

I sometimes imagined what my life and Lila's would have been if we had both taken the test for admission to middle school and then high school, if together we had studied to get our degree, elbow to elbow, allied, a perfect couple, the sum of intellectual energies, of the pleasures of understanding and the imagination. We would have written together, we would have been authors together, we would have drawn power from each other, we would have fought shoulder to shoulder because what was ours was inimitably ours. The solitude of women's minds is regrettable, I said to myself, it's a waste to be separated from each other, without procedures, without tradition.

This novel is stunning, and I highly recommend this series. Now I have to be patient and wait for Book Four to be published in the U.S.

Favorite Quotes
"How can I explain ... that from the age of six I've been a slave to letters and numbers, that my mood depends on the success of their combinations, that the joy of having done well is rare, unstable, that it lasts an hour, an afternoon, a night?"

"He didn't want her the way he generally wanted women, to feel them under him, to turn them over, turn them again, open them up, break them, step on them, and crush them. He didn't want her in order to have sex and then forget her. He wanted the subtlety of her mind with all its ideas. He wanted her imagination. And he wanted her without ruining her, to make her last."

"I couldn't control my restlessness, an eagerness for violation was growing in me, I wanted to break the rules, as the entire world seemed to be breaking the rules. I wanted, even, just once, to break out of marriage, or, why not, everything in my life, what I had learned, what I had written, what I was trying to write, the child I had brought into the world. Ah yes, marriage was a prison."

"I expect the best from you, I'm too certain that you can do better, I want you to do better, it's what I want most, because who am I if you aren't great, who am I?"

"I concluded that first of all I had to understand better what I was. Investigate my nature as a woman. I had been excessive, I had striven to give myself male capacities. I thought I had to know everything, be concerned with everything. What did I care about politics, about struggles. I wanted to make a good impression on men, be at their level ... I had been conditioned by my education, which had shaped my mind, my voice. To what secret pacts with myself had I consented, just to excel. And now, after the hard work of learning, what must I unlearn."

"In the fairy tales one does as one wants, and in reality one does what one can."
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,260 reviews5,195 followers
December 27, 2022
و من قال ان الرحيل دوما شر و البقاء جيد للأبد؟
فدوران عجلة الزمن يسقط من في القمم للقاع و يعلي اهل القاع لسطح لم يتألفوا معه..وفي رحلة الصعود تسقط الاقنعة و يرحل من يرحل و يبقى من يتحمل
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و لكن تظل رحلة الهروب الكبير للنساء هي:الهروب من الانوثة؛رموزها؛معوقاتهاو اعباؤها ؛
و عبر سنوات الرصاص الحرجة في تاريخ ايطاليا و تحول اليسار الاشتراكي لألوية عسكرية حمراء؛ سنرى من هرب و من بقى عبر تسع سنوات جديدة من حياة الينا/ليلا
بسرد كلاسيكي/ شيطاني اعتدنا انه: يقرأنا و لا نقرأه
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من هرب و من بقى؟
الرجال لديهم عادة رذيلة تسقط اقنعتهم و يتحولون الي مسوخ على حين غرة
هناك الفارغ كقاع بئر سحيق~
هناك من يتحول لدخان اسود يخنقك "ا~
و يعتبر"الهاربون و الباقون"هو جزء سقوط الاقنعة بجدارة؛عائلات بكاملها تسقط اقنعتها..لن تجد فرقا بين مؤمن و شيوعي؛ هنا الاغلبية الساحقة ستسقط في اختبار المال و القوة
و سيبسط الموت جناحيه على شخصيات الرواية ؛ستبدا بموت و تنتهي بموت

تعرف الانثى غريزيا و مبكرا ان الانقاذ دوما بيد الرجل و تعتقد انها تختار"الاقدر و الاصلح"لظروفها و يتحول منقذها ل:نصيبها و مهما كانت قدراتها على الترويض ستنهار اسطورة: الانقاذ

من بقى و من هرب؟
كالعادة ليلا دوما سابقة لايلينا بخطوتين..تدفع ثمنا فادحا لزواجها المزري الخالي من الاحترام و الحب..تسحقها "سنوات الرصاص كعاملة في ظروف أليمة لا آدمية و تجد نفسها فجاة من رموز "اليسار" رغما عنها
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و كالعادة مع هبوط ليلا تتألق الينا و يصعد نجمها كروائية
الينا تنضم لاسرة رفيعة الشأن ثقافيا و سياسيا و اجتماعيا بزواجها من البروفيسور الشاب :بيتيرو ايروتا و مع احباطات الزواج و الحمل المبكر و اعباء الامومة الشرسة و احتباس الالهام و تواري الموهبة يسقط قناع الرضا و التهذيب عن وجه الينا تدريجيا
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من هرب و من بقى؟*
ستدرك كلتاهما للاسف ان خصالها الذكورية/العقلية هي الضامن الوحيد للارتقاء"المستقل" و لكن في ظل تردي مخيف للاقتصاد و تهاوى الشعور بالامن
هل تكفي جهودك؟
ام ستعود اخلاقيات و تنازلات فترة مابعد الحرب؟
و هذا الجزء سيثير في نفس القاريء تساؤلات عن تلك الاتفاقية القديمة التي اجرتها الفتاتين : فلتكن ليلا هي الشريرة و الينا الطيبة؟ حقا؟
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تلجا ليلا اخيرا الى قدراتها العقلية الفذة و ينطلق المارد من القمقم و في انطلاقها ..ستقرر ان تفوز بما يمنحه لها "الكل" من مميزات

عندما تدمر احلام ماضيك :هل يبقى حاضرك؟ *
الينا تلك الفتاة التي تعلمت بنقود البقشيش و استعملت ادب القرود دوما للتسلق عبر الطبقات؛ هدفها و شغفها و رسالة حياتها انحصرت في الفوز بالقبول الاجتماعي و ما ان حصلت على القبول
تتحول الينا فجاة الى"بطران اخرته قطران" طبعا و هي تتساءل
لماذا المفروض على الحفاظ على ما لم انجح في فعله؟*
احيانا يكون في رحيل البعض: جنة
و في بقاء البعض: جحيم
لن تنهدم الدنيا و لن تغلق الابواب
فليبقى من يبقى و يرحل من يرحل

Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,119 reviews1,617 followers
December 5, 2022

La terza stagione della serie HBO-RAI tratta da questo romanzo è in lavorazione: a differenza delle precedenti due dirette da Saverio Costanzo, questa ha Daniele Luchetti alla regia.

Due nomi, belli come Elena e Raffaella, storpiati in Lenù e Lina, o Lila.
Due donne, belle, intelligenti, sensibili, con almeno una marcia in più, rivoltate come calzini, esplorate nei loro sentimenti più ingarbugliati e molesti, scandagliate, scarnificate, messe a nudo negli aspetti peggiori, al punto che la mia mediocrità si sente meno sola, e a volte, perfino, superiore.

"La prodigieuse Elena Ferrante" il primo documentario sull'opera letteraria di Elena Ferrante andato in onda sul canale franco-tedesco Arté.

Scavare nelle parole e tra le parole, in quello che ci gonfia e rompe, nel lato oscuro dell’anima, è questo che affascina Ferrante?
La rabbia, la meschinità, anche quando diventa malignità, il peggio che è un flusso continuo di straordinaria potenza, il meglio invece è un'insorgenza felice ma di scarsa forza e durata, è questo che attrae Ferrante?

È questo che mi attrae in Ferrante?
Anche quando mi fa sentire indiscreto, addirittura intruso?


Una storia d'amore è sempre la storia di uno squilibrio. In genere noi pensiamo che lo squilibrio intervenga quando l'amore finisce. In realtà sia le gioie, sia le pene dell'amore - intendo qualsiasi tipo d'amore, da quello materno a quello per il genere umano o per un dio - muovono da uno stato d'eccezione in cui l'essere umano dà il meglio e il peggio di sé proprio perché la norma è sospesa, il punto d'equilibrio è rotto. Un secolo di psicoanalisi ci ha mostrato che la gran parte degli istituti umani fondamentali - dalla famiglia alla religione, non esclusa tra l'altro l'arte del racconto - sono tentativi di mettere Eros al lavoro dentro una normativa, di ridurre il suo squilibrio a un equilibrio. Ma sono tentativi costituzionalmente destinati al fallimento. Nei libri che ho scritto, l'amore o è molesto o non è.

Niamh Cusack nella parte di Lenù e Catherine 'Braveheart' McCormack in quella di Lila.

Ho letto un’ipotesi interessante sul New Yorker (dove Ferrante viene in qualche modo paragonata ad Alice Munro – ma è Elizabeth Strout che le ha pubblicamente reso onore – se devo fare un paragone, io sento che Ferrante è più vicina a Michael Haneke di chiunque altro): potrebbe essere proprio il completo anonimato, il mistero che circonda il nome e la figura di Elena Ferrante, a consentirle di essere così ‘intima’, di penetrare in zone e argomenti ‘tabù’.
Perché sceglie sempre argomenti che sono privati, anche se non necessariamente autobiografici.
Perché sembra sempre esporsi oltre ogni limite, mettersi in gioco con brutale onestà, anche se camuffata nei suoi personaggi.
Come se la sua esistenza dipendesse dall’onestà con cui si mostra.

Anche quando si chiama Lena o Lina.

Elena ‘Lenù’ Greco e Raffaella ‘Lila’ Cerullo bambine interpretate da Elisa Del Genio e Ludovica Nasti.

Ma c’è qualcosa di diverso in questa saga, annunciata come trilogia e poi per strada trasformatasi in quadrilogia, qualcosa di diverso dai primi tre romanzi di Ferrante.
L’universo femminile e l’amore sono sempre al centro della narrazione, come lo è la rabbia delle donne che hanno sempre un cammino più lungo e più in salita da percorrere per raggiungere quelle stesse mete che agli uomini sono destinate per legge divina (in realtà, legge molto molto umana, anzi proprio del tutto subumana) - anche qui una scomparsa avvia il lungo racconto come già la scomparsa del marito apriva I giorni dell’abbandono, quella della madre L’amore molesto e quella della figlia La figlia oscura (qui si tratta di Lila, la coprotagonista): ma c’è l'abbandono di qualsiasi distanza col lettore, c’è la scelta di parole per volerlo piuttosto coinvolgere, portare vicino, e dentro, a contatto – il bisogno di raccontare, di comunicare, di essere compresa, che spinge verso una scrittura più ‘accessibile' del solito, verso una densa leggerezza.
E un ritmo più serrato e più frenetico.


Il racconto in prima persona arriva spesso attraverso dialoghi riportati, come non mi pare d’aver mai riscontrato in altri narratori.
Ed è un racconto ricco di colpi di scena come non è mai stato prima nell’opera di questa misteriosa scrittrice, che utilizza a piene mani gli strumenti del romanzo più classico, tutti quelli che servono alla storia e ai personaggi, e le pagine finali dei miei libri tendono a conclusioni che, dall'interno delle stesse parole che acquietano, lanciano segnali di inquietudine.

Al centro Saverio Costanzo, regista perfetto per l’impresa di portare sul piccolo schermo la tetralogia ferrantiana.

… forse, di fronte all’abbandono, siamo tutti uguali…
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews2,954 followers
August 1, 2017
I finished this today, the day Elena Ferrante’s identity has reportedly been revealed. I confess I feel a bit guilty now because while reading this there were several times I found myself wishing I knew how much was fiction and how much autobiography. I wondered this because it struck me that when Lila disappears from the pages so too does the electric charge Ferrante’s writing has. Ferrante writes well about Elena’s initiation into university life, the Milan literati, Italian political unrest, about marriage, child rearing, and infidelity but not markedly better than lots of other writers. The best parts of this book were when Lila returned. For me, no Lila, no party. And Lila is absent for a lot of this book. So I couldn’t help wondering if Lila, Ferrante’s muse, is a real person. Did she luck out as an author in having such a compelling brilliant friend or is she an inspired invention of Ferrante’s? It doesn’t really matter but I was curious.

If this disreputable journalist/culture - yet another indictment of how misplaced and trivial investigative journalism has become. How about spending your time and energy on uncovering secrets of corruption and conspiracy in governments and multi-national corporations, guys, instead of harassing a writer? - is right then it turns out these Neapolitan novels are even more a triumph of imagination than perhaps they would have been perceived were they a literary transcription of Ferrante’s personal experience. Because we discover Ferrante, though born in Naples, moved to Rome when three and had a German mother who fled to Italy to escape the Holocaust. It always struck me that the descriptions of Naples were quite generic – could have been Bari or Palermo or Reggio Calabria or even Rome minus an occasional ocean. The same is true in this book of Pisa and Florence where Elena finds herself. I never really felt she was in Pisa or Florence. She could have been in any Italian university town. The settings were perhaps Ferrante's way of concealing her tracks.

Ferrante was always going to have a problem keeping her anonymity because of the apparent intense realism of her work - you can't help wondering how much is true while reading her. The irony for me is that these books were never about Naples, or at least specific to Naples. In fact it doesn’t surprise me at all that she never lived in Naples for long. And yet it’s the depiction of Naples that has caused a lot of the fuss. They are about the difficulties women face to achieve autonomy and identity in any milieu where men still often have the final word – as such they could be set in Bagdad or Birmingham, Rome or Nairobi. It’s interesting that in Italy many have claimed her books were written by a man and even now there’s talk they were written by this translator’s husband. Would even that matter? It says a lot about Italy which, though I’d argue is not generally misogynistic, does tend to be chauvinistic – the disparagement of women more an intellectual insecurity than an emotional distaste). Were her books written by a man it’d certainly be a phenomenal achievement because Ferrante, whoever she is, will probably go down in history as one of the very best exponents of unravelling the inner lives of women.

So, yep this was really good too, though not quite as good as Book Two. Interestingly and for the first time Elena isn't always likeable in this book - often you feel because the wise and inspirational influence of Lina is not at hand. And it ends on a real cliffhanger and I’m annoyed I didn’t already buy the forth book cos now I have to wait for it to arrive.

I only hope Ferrante doesn’t stop writing now that her privacy has been so crudely invaded.
Profile Image for Emily.
694 reviews2,004 followers
October 27, 2015


Okay, I've calmed down enough to write a review (more like a "review") so that I can move on to the next book. This installment was the most frustrating one to read thus far. It feels disjointed and the entire middle of the book is sloooooow. It's hard to tell if this is an artistic choice - does the reader have to experience the same sort of ennui that Elena does as a new mother? if so, are hundreds of pages appropriate? - or if the story simply drags out this period of Elena's life for too long.

My main problem is that this book is not about Lila and Elena. This book is about Nino Sarratore. Nominally, this book is about the two women that we've been following for three books now. Lila goes to work in terrible conditions in a sausage factory; Elena marries a Nice Boy from a slightly higher social class than her own and has a child; the two intersect, memorably, only a few times over the course of their twenties and thirties. But Nino keeps dipping in and out of their lives, whether he's showing up at Elena's book reading, appearing offscreen as the baby daddy of a fellow activist, or becoming friends with Elena's husband through work. Nino's appearances propel the action forward and give Elena new purposes and meaning. By the end, .

There are a few elements that I really loved. As Lila and Elena enter the real world outside of the neighborhood, Elena discovers feminism and Lila becomes a working-class hero, exposing the dangers of the factory she works in. There are shifting relationships between Elena and her family, especially when . Politics and the changing cultural landscape of Italy pervade the background, and sometimes the foreground:

And at least Enzo in front of him, in the factory, women worn out by the work, by humiliations, by domestic obligations no less than Lila was. Yet now they were both angry because of the conditions she worked in; they couldn’t tolerate it. You had to hide everything from men. They preferred not to know, they preferred to pretend that what happened at the hands of the boss miraculously didn’t happen to the women important to them and that—this was the idea they had grown up with—they had to protect her even at the risk of being killed. In the face of that silence Lila got even angrier. “Fuck off,” she said, “you and the working class.”

Ferrante's blinding talent is writing truthfully (even as Lila rails against the very idea of doing things "truthfully"), and there are certain sentences and turns of phrase in this book that made me start fervently taking notes, highlighting, thinking about them again and again, turning them over in my head. Ideas in Ferrante's hands feel fresh and revolutionary and new, and that's why I keep coming back to these books. (I loved her Paris Review interview.) Once her characters are in a situation and have to live with the consequences, she's able to turn her insightful prose to and narrow her focus on that particular problem. It's getting from Situation A to Situation B that seems to be more difficult for her in this book.

So much of this book is based on the soap opera of Nino and who he's currently interested in sleeping with. The relationships never make sense to me. The seesaw between Lila and Elena feels cheap, a too-obvious manifestation of the give and take friendship between them (as Lila says, "We made a pact when we were children: I'm the wicked one"). The ending is explosive only because something actually happens after pages and pages of nothing. I really hope that the next book can engage with the heavy questions that Ferrante obviously wants to without getting bogged back down in a soap opera.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 28 books13.5k followers
March 2, 2018
[From Le nouveau nom]

I wrote and rewrote my review of Elena Ferrante's third volume, but each version I produced seemed stupider than the last; empty words, tired formulas, a well-crafted and earnest nullity of expression. In the end, although I had promised myself I would not do so, I emailed the draft to my friend and asked for her advice. An hour later, she skyped me back.

"So what do you expect me to do?" she asked. She seemed to be in a particularly bad mood. "You're the reviewer. You understand this shit. I haven't written a review in years."

"I just wondered if you could look at it," I said. "Like you used to."

"Yes," she said scornfully. "Well, you can start by taking out the Proust."

"Have you even--" I began, but she cut me off. "She's nothing like Proust," she said. "Proust's just a French ponce who spends a million words boring you to death about how he became a writer. Ferrante never bores you. It looks like she's doing the Proust thing with memory and time and art, but it's quite different. You don't understand Proust at all."

I was cut to the quick; I prided myself on my knowledge of Proust, which I had acquired through years of diligent study. She continued. "And you can take out Knausgård too. Jesus Christ, he's worst than Proust. He takes even longer to explain that novelists are fascists, you know that's going to be the punchline by page two."

As usual, I already felt helplessly lost. All I could do was nod. "And Simone de Beauvoir," she said. "Well, that was better. The style's not so different. And it is a bit like Les Mandarins. Sex and violence and disgusting hypocritical intellectuals. You can leave Simone in."

When had she found time to read all these books? She said she never read any more.

"Then what--" I began again. "You need to move downmarket," she said. "Stephenie Meyer. Twilight. Vampires."

"Vampires?" I said weakly. "But what in the text could possibly--"

"It's right there in chapter 122," she said. "Fuck me dead, don't you people see anything you aren't expecting to see? Lila calls Nino a blood-sucking vampire. And he is. This book is Twilight for people who at least have a quarter of a brain. Elena is Bella, a stupid little bookish girl who can't write and can't think and lies to herself all the time, and understands that the only way out is to find a vampire who'll rescue her. No matter what it costs. I've got to go."

She hung up before I could answer. I wished now that I hadn't called her, but it was too late.

[To L'enfant perdue]
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,109 reviews8,024 followers
December 25, 2018
4.5 stars Review to come. But obviously it was great.
Ok, now that I've had time to come up with some thoughts--though, no promises that they will be coherent--I can attempt to write a review of this one. Like the 2 preceding novels in the Neapolitan novels series by the fabulous Elena Ferrante, this one is quite hard to rate on its own. The stories are so dependent on one another, and Ferrante so excellently doles out information that your reading of 1 book in the series seriously affects your perceptions/thoughts/feelings about the previous ones. This novel is no exception.

We learn so much more about adult Lila & Elena. There are equal portions of this novel that focus on each character under a microscope. We go for chapters and chapters without hearing about the other and vice versa. But at the end of the day, their friendship, everything about them as a pair, is central to this novel. And that struggle to balance their dependence on one another with their need to grow up and move on really reflects well the titular dichotomy of Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Can I just say, dang, Ferrante comes up with good titles. It's so multi-layered, and the deeper you get into the novel the more you realize how many ways she's twisting it.

Once again, Ferrante treats the reader like an intellectual. She trusts you enough to not hold your hand through every moment, and by doing so, she gives you a much more pleasurable, satisfying and ultimately fantastic read.


First read: Feb 23 - March 8, 2016
Second read: Dec 20-24, 2018
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,698 followers
August 15, 2019
”Each of us narrates our life as it suits us.” ~Lila Cerullo

Mount Vesuvius simmers on the edges of Naples, a dragon in slumber, a metaphor for the rumbling, teeming city that erupts in violence without warning. The view of the volcano's hulking presence, seen through the windows of an upscale apartment, serves as proof that one has risen above the squalor of “the neighborhood” to arrive in the loftier heights. But no amount of money or education can sand away the rough resentments of those raised to fight for every scrap of power.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third installment of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels quartet, strikes me as the most intimate of the books. For it is here that Elena Greco turns from her past, staying away Naples for years at a time, closing the door on the embarrassment of her family and the simmering envy of her best friend, Lila Cerullo. We see more of Elena’s internal life than we’ve seen in the previous books as we follow her into marriage and motherhood. Elena Ferrante has admitted that much of her Neapolitan Novels is autobiographical and in Elena Greco we realize the irony of a young writer surrounded by profound social change, struggling to absorb and understand it, aching to write about it, yet confounded by her sexual awakening and domestic demands. She has defied the preordained path of marriage, children, poverty and drudgery by leaving Naples, completing university and becoming a celebrated author, yet now finds herself in exactly the place she was certain she’d escaped: the nursery, the kitchen, losing her singularity in the demands of husband and babies.

This novel is also the most political of Ferrante’s extraordinary bildungsroman. Opening against the backdrop of the 1968 student uprisings in Paris, and carrying into the 1970s Vietnam War protest movement, the clashes in Italy between the communists and neo-fascists, Baader-Meinhof and the rise of the Red Brigade, feminism and the sexual revolution, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay shows the social awakening of a nation through the intelligent but naïve eyes of Elena.

“The Personal is Political,” a phrase coined by feminist Carol Hanisch in 1970, is brought to narrative life by Ferrante’s women. Elena's first novel is selling well and she is infused with a sense of her own relevance. Yet, just as she finds her voice and her star rises, she marries Pietro Airota, the son of her literary champion Adele, and settles in Florence. Pietro, a seemingly liberal and enlightened university professor, balks when Elena expresses her desire not to have children right away; she is a writer and needs the time to continue learning and exploring her craft. But the Pill is not yet legal and Pietro has married her with far different expectations. The birth of two daughters in the first years of her marriage stultifies Elena’s creative intentions and her literary star dims and fades out.

Miles and lifetimes away, where we left her at the end of The Story With A New Name, Lila has become as physically frail as a branch stripped bare. She lives a platonic life with Enzo, after first fleeing her marriage to abusive Stefano and then her lover, the enigmatic Nino, raising her son and grinding through her days at a sausage factory. While Elena, consumed by motherhood, barely glances at the daily newspaper headlines, Lila is at the frontlines of the labor movement, agitating workers by standing up to the abuse and advances of her employer.

This is a novel of fierce and brutal love, of rivalry in marriage, in friendship, in national pride. But at its heart, the Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is the story of friendship, of the violence we do to those we love the most. Elena and Lila collide and spin away, only to orbit again into each other’s hearts. A phone call after months or years apart picks up their emotional conversation where it last left off, mercurial Lila prodding Elena to become the scholar, the writer, the figure of cultural significance Lila wants her to be, who Lila herself aches to be. They live in the shadows of their shared expectations, trying to push the other into the light. Lila is the novel’s conscience, Elena its irony; together they form the story of social awakening and exploration.

The women and men of these Neapolitan clans are so wholly under my skin, I feel with each page I’m mining my own family’s history. Ferrante writes with such urgency, such angry clarity, that my own psychology is flushed and agitated.

"Too many bad things, and some terrible, had happened over the years, and to regain our old intimacy we would have to speak our secret thoughts, but I didn't have the strength to find the words…," says Elena at the start of Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, looking back on sixty years of friendship. Yet those secret thoughts are offered to the reader in an intimate, vulnerable and enraged portrait of feminine friendship, with Ferrante's beautiful, powerful language. These books are astonishing. I’m already gutted that Book Four, its U.S. release imminent, is the last.

ETA: Interesting article in today's London Review Bookshop: Elena Ferrante on Anonymity
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,275 reviews2,215 followers
February 25, 2022

Dramatic, maybe melodramatic at times, but so gripping as the lives of these two women take hold of the reader once again with their complicated friendship. The narration by Elena is introspective, but yet when she speaks of Lila and tells her story, it feels equally as intimate. Once again I was pulled into their lives, caring about them, while not always liking them, thinking about the two little girls from the streets of Naples and where life has taken them.

Life in 1970’s Italy with the messy politics of Communism vs Fascism, the plight of workers, the violence as the backdrop for the messiness of life . The failed marriages, conflicting roles of women as mothers, wives trying to be their own person and of course the continuing tension, jealousy, admiration, and depth of friendship between Lila and Elena are so vividly depicted by Ferrante. Of course, I will read the fourth and final book in the series.
Profile Image for William2.
735 reviews2,870 followers
August 23, 2017
Each book in the Neapolitan series has its different delights. In Volume One, My Brilliant Friend, it was childhood, education and ambition. In Volume Two, The Story of a New Name, the zombie-like mindlessness of youthful sexual awakening. Here, its wealth and poverty and the irrationality of lovers.

Author Ferrante shows us why Communism was embraced by so many hardworking Italians. Her tale may be beholden to Ignazio Silone, yet it gives one a compelling understanding of the hopes and dreams the ideology inspired. That it was still doing so well into the late 1960s, long after the horrors of Stalin had become known, says much about its intoxicating propensities.

At the same time, she crystallizes the awful self-righteous bluster of the class-struggle people, most notably in the drivel espoused by Pasquale. One of the failures of Communism was its sacrifice—always—of the individual to group. Yet while Pasquale is emoting self-righteously—because Lila's declining health prevents her from unionizing a local sausage factory—in his lap sits the radiantly bourgeois Nadia, whom Nino threw over for Lila in Volume 2. Pasquale plays the high moral hand on behalf of the workers, yet it's the woman here who emboldens him to spout the long dead clichés. Pasquale's hypocrisy, not to mention his cavalier attitude to Lila's health, stinks. Even so, the Neapolitans see the Party as a way out, a means of overcoming a brutal, impoverished existence.

I'm most impressed by the detailed abhorrence of motherhood. Has anyone anywhere said it as well? Not in anything I have read. Ferrante shows both sides, the fleeting I-am-the-Earth-Goddess nurturing phase, which is elating, uplifting and brief. But then comes the morning sickness; the murderous hatred, when stressed or tired, of one's own child; the virtual purdah of being a married woman with children during the Sexual Revolution (c. 1970). Lina is positively unhinged by motherhood and warns Lenù of what is to come. But Lenù won't listen, won't admit that her old friend is right. And, my God!—the fights Lenù has with her new husband, the fantasies of other men, the adulterous trysts aborted at the last second. As Alphonso says, "Life is a very ugly business, Lenù." (p.212)

Finally we get to the crux of the title itself. Lenù, who has left Naples, to live in Florence with her academic husband, Pietro, can't understand how the lives of her family and friends in the old neighborhood have changed. She returns to find Lina, who has stayed in Naples, working for Michele Solara, her erstwhile enemy. (The Solaras are all Cammorists.) Her sister Elisa is living in so-called sin with Marcello Solara at the open acquiesce of her termagant mother. All the old neighborhood enemies are dining together lightheartedly. Lenù—there in Elisa and Marcello's flat, with the old neighborhood loan shark Manuela Solara, too—is caught between two worlds. She wants to apply the old enmities of childhood to the current situation, but life in the neighborhood has radically changed. Accommodations have had to be made that, even if only brief, were previously unthinkable.

Lenù and Lila are no longer in sync. Lenù feels they have lost the power to speak intimately and they have. The tetralogy is sold as the ultimate tale of the friendship of two women. But from early on in Volume 2 they fight as much as they harmonize, perhaps more. Light moments become increasingly rare. Lenù is isolated in Florence and Lina in Naples. On the other hand, and I think this is a sign of the times—the action's now set in the mid-1970s—but the utopian socialist vibe being so prevalent there is a strong romanticization of the idea of a womens' collective. It's the same unrealizable dream of the triumph of the proletariat. For better or worse, human beings are driven by a self-interest that knows no gender.
Then the wish to telephone her [Lina] returned, to tell her: Listen to what I'm thinking about, please let's talk about it together, you remember what you said about Alfonzo? But the opportunity was gone, lost decades ago. I had to learn to be satisfied with myself. (p. 354)

It's not just the splendid clarity and earnest forthrightness of the narration, it's also the way Ferrante maintains the flux of mood that in my view makes these book almost magical, and I mean that in a non-pejorative sense. Sometimes it's one voice, sometimes several—solo, duo, trio etc—so the effect can become somewhat operatic. And it's modulated with an effortlessness throughout. That seeming ease is in my view what makes the novels worth rereading. Ferrante, it finally strikes one, is a writer's writer.

Lenù is a maniac toward the end. One pities Pietro, her husband. She thinks she's still going to be Nino's one and only. Why is she still running after this deadbeat who has left his bastards all over Naples? All this while she's writing of man's dastardly fabrication of women down the ages: rib of Adam to make Eve and so on. Then—finally—Lenù and Nino fuck, as they must, though they are both married by now and it tears the two families apart. You can't warn people. They have to make their own mistakes. They have to screw up and live to regret it.

On to Volume 4...
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
440 reviews656 followers
February 7, 2017
Finally getting back to this series. I thoroughly enjoyed books one and two by Ferrante. But I waited to get to book three. I started this series via audio and wanted to finish them all via audio. Oddly, my library only had books 1, 2, and 4 in audio. So I waited for them to get it. But the main reason I waited.....I dread seeing the end of this absolutely amazing story!

Again we are drawn into the lives of Elena and Lila. This book picks up immediately where book 2 left off, though they all do that. Elena is now a published author and is rising in influence and wealth. Lila is working at the sausage factory, raising her son, living and working in squalor but remaining strong as ever. I'll not go into the details of this one, but say just read the series. I don't want to give anything away and really, I can't quite put my finger on why these books are so captivating, so mesmerizing. I can't wait to get to book four, the final book to see what happens, but I'm sad it is the last book.

This is the first series of books I have ever finished. What can I say.....I loose interest in long, drawn out series. That never happened here. In fact, if there were more of these books, I would continue to read them. Between reading this one, Elena Ferrante was unmasked by some reporter who obviously had some other agenda. Does it take away from my reading these books? No. Does it add anything to my reading? No. Sometimes I almost feel much of what is in these books is taken from the authors life - no where has that been said, these are works of fiction, but it just feels so real. I truly feel some one lived this story. And I want to hear more. Perhaps that is why she wanted to remain silent. Or perhaps she just did not want to be bombarded constantly about her works (see Harper Lee).

I listened to the audio and the narration is wonderful. Hillary Huber does an amazing job and *is* the voice of Elena and Lila. My only nit-pick is so many characters (they are all wonderful) with many nicknames - it's hard to keep track of them at times. In the print version, there is a 'character tree' that tells who everyone is. Even after three books I still have to refer to this. I recommend this series to anyone who loves a great story, who wants to be immersed in the lives of the people in these books, and who may just want to be transported away for a few hours into something really great.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,474 followers
March 2, 2020
I am barreling through Ferrante books and loving them. In book 3, Elena and Lila are now in their 20s and 30s and still living parallel and occasionally intersecting lives with mariage, lovers, kids, and lots of self-questioning. There is not one particular aspect or scene that comes to mind, but the overall impression of a very Proustian inspired look at the varying fates of these two women and how much they are changed (and unchanged) by the society that is changing around them. The secondary and tertiary characters lack some depth because of the nearly obsessive focus on the two protagonists. I do appreciate the first person narration by Elena (the character) and how she is able to weave Lila's story around hers. I can't wait to read #4!
Profile Image for Claire Melanie.
286 reviews6 followers
November 25, 2014
This book was pretty readable and I'm curious to find out what happens to the characters after having read the two previous books in this series but there are literally no likeable characters at all. They're all such insufferable self obsessed arseholes who are hideous to each other and completely self involved. Really weird. I guess I'll read the last one cause this one certainly ended on a cliffhanger.
Profile Image for Candi.
607 reviews4,582 followers
August 29, 2017
"Become… I wanted to become, even though I had never known what. And I had become, that was certain, but without an object, without a real passion, without a determined ambition. I had wanted to become something – here was the point – only because I was afraid that Lila would become someone and I would stay behind. My becoming was a becoming in her wake. I had to start again to become, but for myself, as an adult, outside of her."

I finished this third book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series three weeks ago. Yet I feel as if I just turned the last page only this morning. I suppose you could say that the entire series has really grown on me and become almost a part of me this past year. There is no way I will ever forget Elena and Lila and their complicated and baffling friendship. Reading this book left me mentally drained – I don’t even know if I can gather together my thoughts to write a cohesive review here! Perhaps too much energy went into submerging myself into the lives of these two women and I should just leave it at that. If I had to seriously and so meticulously dissect my own relationships with my female friends, as Elena does here with Lila, I fear I would perhaps no longer have a single friend! Maybe I would even lose sight of myself. Still, it is exactly this scrutiny which sucks me into these novels.

In Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Ferrante writes from Elena’s perspective. We see both women pass through their twenties and into their thirties. One has managed to escape the violence and the poverty of the old Naples neighborhood, while the other remains behind. While initially it seemed clear which woman ‘left’ and which ‘stayed’, I began to question whether or not perhaps the answer is actually the reverse. Their lives are so intertwined since they were little girls, that there can be no concise conclusion – each depends on the other to mark their own individual successes. I am going to refrain from discussing the plot in any detail, but rather note generally that feminism, marriage and motherhood are all explored. We also witness the political tensions in Italy during the late 1960s/early 1970s. Certainly, the friendship continues to be tested. Honestly, I cannot say that I identify with either Elena or Lila. In the earlier books in this series I would have to admit that any sympathy I doled out would have been directed towards Elena. Now, however, the tables have turned; I find Elena to be especially disagreeable while instead I find greater appreciation in Lila’s personality, despite her abrasive edges. I think Lila genuinely wants the best for Elena, while Elena wants to ensure that Lila does not surpass her.

The intensity of the story continues to build throughout. Consistent with the previous Neapolitan novels, this one ends on a cliffhanger as well. I was rather stunned! I am certain that choices made will reverberate straight through the fourth book, and that the next chapter of these women’s lives will be as tortuous and absorbing as the last.

"Each of us narrates our life as it suits us."
320 reviews344 followers
March 19, 2019
أنا من الطبقة الوسطى التى تجاهد كى لا تنزلق، وتكافح كى تصعد لأعلى، فلا تكسب إلا تحطيم أظفارها على الغبار الذى يبطن الحفرة.
العراب أحمد خالد توفيق .. من مقال بعنوان لعنة الوضع الوسط
البروليتاريا = الطبقة العاملة = الموظفين = الطبقة الوسطى: الجميع سواسية يكافحون كى يكسبوا قوت يومهم ويعجزون عن الوفاء بالمتطلبات الطارئة / العاجلة لأن ما يربحونه من دخل يكاد يكفى اليوم ذاته، وطالما بقى حال الطبقة الوسطى على ما هو عليه أو تدهور أكثر، فهنا يجب أن يتوقع المجتمع أن تظهر (باسكوالى + ناديا + أرماندو + وربما ليلا) معارضة قوية من أبناء الطبقة التى لم تعد تستطع أن توفى إلتزاماتها ومن المسحوقين من أبناء الطبقات الدُنيا يطالبون بالحقوق فى العيش والكرامة ربما بطريقة سلمية، ولكن أحياناً بطريقة غير سلمية كما فى حالة الألوية الحمراء فى إيطاليا فتعم البلاد الفوضى فى شكل قتل وخطف ونهب عاشته إيطاليا فى الربع الثالث من القرن الماضى، تزامن صعود سهم الألوية الحمراء مع سيطرة الحزب المسيحى الديمقراطى على الحكم آنذاك، فتصاعدت أعمال العنف من جانب الألوية الحمراء كرد فعل على عمليات عنف مماثلة تعرض لها كل من انتمى للفصائل الأخرى.
وكما عودنا أصحاب الأموال فى كل زمان ومكان أنهم ينشطون عند الكوارث الكبرى لأى بلد أو مجتمع فيسعون لإعطاء الأموال لهذا وذاك فيظهر الكتاب الأحمر لصاحبته مانويلا سولارا وهؤلاء يتغذون على أصحاب الطبقة سابقة الذكر فيسحقون ويقتلون فى سبيل المال (كما فعلت مانويلا مع المرابى المنافس لها الدون آخيل) ويساعدون السلطة على التخلص من معارضيها بُغية تحقيق مكاسب أكبر.
نعود سريعاً من بعيد إلى روايتنا الساحرة:
جميعنا أسرى ماضينا، الماضى وإن لم نكتبه
داريو: ذلك الطفل الذى يحاول أن يكتب مستقبلاً جديداً مشرقاً أكثر من ظلمة هذه الحرب الأهلية التى اجتاحت إيطاليا، يحاول أن يكتب مستقبله بيديه ولكن أى قوة يمتلك هذا الغصن الأخضر كى يجابه صراعات أصحاب الأيدولوجيات المختلفة والأهداف المتباينة من الأحزاب والحركات التى تقود المشهد بيديها إلى مصير غير معلوم.
إيليزا: إياك أن تحاول إنقاذ نفسك وإنقاذ من حولك على طريقة سيدنا يونس عندما قفز فى اليم لينقذ أتباعه ورفاقه من غرق السفينة فألتقمه الحوت، هكذا فعلت الطفلة إيليزا كى تنقذ عائلتها ونفسها من مصير أسود فى وسط أمواج من الحرب والقتل، لاذت بالفرار من نار الفقر والحرب والمرض إلى جحيم عائلة الربا.

رسالة فى نهاية هذه المراجعة لإيلينا فيرانتى كاتبة هذه الأعجوبة: كم أنت شيطانة؟، كيف استطعت أن تتلاعبى بى وبمشاعرى بين الحب والكُره والتعاطف والمقت، ونجحتِ فى نهاية هذا الجزء أن تتركينى مُحملاً بهذا القدر الهائل من الغضب حتى أنى أضرب كل ما يقابلنى الآن بقبضة يدى.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,910 reviews35.3k followers
August 25, 2016
Elena is married, living in Florence with a husband she fights with often.
They have two daughters.....making her life even more complicated. Choices need to be made. Will she leave....or will she stay? And regardless of her choice--what else has to happen? For her? Her children? Husband? Is being happy with yourself dependent on if you stay OR leave?
Basically- Elena is not content as a Betty Crocker type domestic-woman.
She spends a great amount of time evaluating her every move, her every thought, questions her value...measures herself against Lila....and others. So, in many ways, book three is more Elena's story than the first two previous books were.

In book Three, we see more social awakening -[1969-1970]- there's the Vietnam war,
the rise of feminism, and sexual upheavals....all beginning in a sausage factory. [where Lila works]....
Violence - protests- and the labor movement..... Conflicts are rising between communists and fascists.

In many ways this is the most intense. It's hard to believe that this book went even deeper than book two.....but it does! A deeper evaluation about friendship,
about the changing roles for women - in marriage and career.....About sex-love- money- social status- and personal self expression.

Crazy choices? I'll let you decide!

Excellent - thought provoking!!!!!!!!!! Gorgeous writing and dialogue as always!!!!

Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books767 followers
April 3, 2015
From the beginning, the reading of Ferrante has been a visceral experience. Yet, reading her standalone novels first did not prepare for me for what a hyperrealistic fever dream these Neapolitan Novels have been. Unlike hyperrealistic works of visual art where what is underneath proves that the picture is not real, what is underneath here seems all too real. Upon finishing this installment I even felt guilty, as if I were complicit in the character's decisions.

The narrator's scholarly work on male authors who write from a female viewpoint (e.g, Flaubert/Bovary) fits the developing character, but is Ferrante (who at one time was speculated to be male) having a bit of fun here? Or is she venting her anger? (The latter is much more likely; there's no fun in Ferrante.)

Of great interest to me, and it's more evident in Book Three than in the first two, was the recognition of elements that originated in Ferrante's standalone novels, especially The Lost Daughter: a child's doll; a powerful, threatening family; the breaking of glass by a distraught adult in front of a small child; the paring of the skin of a fruit into one unbroken strip; and, of course, abandonment.

I must abandon Ferrante until at least September, a forced hiatus, I am not willing.

... maybe, in the face of abandonment, we are all the same; maybe not even a very orderly mind can endure the discovery of not being loved.
Profile Image for Lena.
172 reviews66 followers
June 13, 2022
Brilliant just as the rest of the series. Hypnotizing phycological novel that emerges you into chaotic and emotional Naples. It's predictable but surprising at the same time. No grand events but enormous feelings. It's familiar and yet exotic. And the third book took even more feminist approach and deepened the discussion on social injustices, which made it more than just a story of the complex relationship with fascinating historical background (cos where else would you read about Italian communists vs fascists?).
Profile Image for Melanie.
Author 6 books1,202 followers
May 13, 2021
"Ferrante’s singularity is to make a glory of introspection and turn it into theatre. There’s a dark ardour present in her writing, and a thrilling physicality to her metaphors, boldly translated by Ann Goldstein. She speaks of “the anxious pleasure of violence”, of desire feeling “like a drop of rain in a spiderweb”. Her charting of the rivalries and sheer inscrutability of female friendship is raw. This is high-stakes, subversive literature."
Catherine Taylor for The Telegraph

A theatre of introspection. A thrilling physicality. High-stakes literature.

This comes pretty close to summing up the genius of Elena Ferrante and the high-wire act that are the Neapolitan Novels. These books thrum on so many levels that I finish each volume with my heart racing and my mind on fire. It feels like the whole world is humming.

I finish each volume with a heightened sense of living, with the sense that I have been privy to the inner workings of a singular mind and body, of an entire culture, of a political genesis, of the city of Naples all at once. I have the curious sensation of having witnessed the birth of an artist. Both in Elena (Lenu) the character and Elena the author.

The Neapolitan Novels may very well be Italy's answer to Proust's "À La Recherche du Temps Perdu". A more solar, raw and untethered version of the same quest: an almost physical need to make sense of the past, to search for the roots of one's personality in the choices that we make or are made for us, to understand (mostly in vain, but what nobility in trying) the people closest to us, those who escape us the most.

And finally, what wilderness in these women! What uncensored, touching, beguiling, indefinable, vital, complicated and obsessed beings they are. These are characters that explode the notions of "likable" and "unlikable". You cannot sum them up. They will trickle through your fingers like sand.

Il più bravo.
Profile Image for Francesca Marciano.
Author 18 books248 followers
January 19, 2014
Reading Elena Ferrante's trilogy has been a marathon of never ending awe. I'm still electrified from reading the last volume. Lila and lena will stay with me for a very very long time. Pleease read "My Brilliant Friend" trilogy and keep in mind that it gets better and better and better and better as you turn each page.
Profile Image for Brown Girl Reading.
346 reviews1,597 followers
May 2, 2021
And the saga continues.... This book is a slow burn. The first 100 pages are pretty bland to be honest but by page 200 I was all in again and by 300 I was unable to stop reading. The subtlety and attention to details are incredible! As I read this series it feels like it's based on reality. Ferrante, still writing from Lenu's point of view, shows us what happens to those who leave nd those who stay. All I can say is brilliant book/writing and I recommend it.
Profile Image for DeB.
967 reviews245 followers
July 6, 2016
I give up. Elena Ferrante and I are not simpatico. I have this novel- I'm skimming- I'm dreading the wordiness, the limbo, the chatter of the novel. They are simply grim books, filled with agony after agony in detail. Life is tough enough but to have to expose myself to the microscopic examination of lives which never seem joyful, the minutiae of the mundane, the scrutiny of unfulfilled lives- I give up. Those who love these books- go for them. We all have choices. These aren't mine. Bye, Elena.
Profile Image for Perry.
631 reviews502 followers
August 20, 2016
Series described as, inter alia, Passionate, Vicious, Intimate, Sweeping, Challenging, Flummoxing, Ferocious, High Stakes, Subversive and Blisteringly Good on Bad Sex
If you've not started reading them, WHY NOT?

Neapolitan actress Valeria Golino [Hot, Hot, Hot]

The 3d of the "Neapolitan Novels" tetralogy by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante (a pseudonym). Ms. Ferrante says she considers the four volumes to constitute one novel. Instead of giving an overall description of the books again, I'll just include a link to My Review of #2: The Story of a New Name in case you'd like to read it.

This one, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay has been, by far, the most turbulent, carrying the two female friends, Elena and Lila, from their mid-20s into their early 30s. While #2 focused mainly on Lila and all the changes in her life, #3 covers Elena, the narrator, in much more detail. I found myself in an anguishing moral conflict with the protagonist toward the end of this one and into the final. Sorry, I can't tell you why without giving you a spoiler.

Since I began the last hundred pages of My Brilliant Friend (#1), I have zoomed through these novels. I've read some reviews that put into words what I'm just now getting my head around on the reasons I'm addicted to these novels. I rarely quote other reviews, but here my wisdom tells me to make an exception if it will convince others how good these books are. So I'll quote them briefly, if you don't mind:

My favorite which describes my reading to a T is from the New Yorker:
" When I read [the Neapolitan novels] I find that I never want to stop. I feel vexed by the obstacles—my job, or acquaintances on the subway—that threaten to keep me apart from the books. ... I am propelled by a ravenous will to keep going. ’"

This is "high stakes, subversive literature." -- Sunday Telegraph

‘Nothing you read about Elena Ferrante’s work prepares you for the ferocity of it…This is a woman’s story told with such truthfulness that it is not so much a life observed as it is felt.’ New York Times

"Her voice is passionate, her view sweeping and her gaze basilisk" New York Times Sunday Book Review

"The Neapolitan series stands as a testament to the ability of great literature to challenge, flummox, enrage and excite as it entertains.’" Sydney Morning Herald

"Her novels ring so true and are written with such empathy that they sound confessional.’" Wall Street Journal

"Ferrante, perhaps thanks to her anonymity as an author, is blisteringly good on bad sex...." Independent
Profile Image for Heba.
994 reviews1,894 followers
January 15, 2022
فما زالت التعويذة السحرية التي تمارسها " ايلينا فرانتي" تفرض سطوتها ..
هنا جاء السرد الروائي كما لو كان عاصفة تداهمك بقوتها الجارفة ، لا سبيل لمقاومتها ...
ايطاليا في فترة الستينيات والسبعينيات من تاريخها حيث التوترات السياسية والنزاعات المحتدمة بين الفاشيين والشيوعيين ..حقبة متأزمة ذات منعطفات متقلبة وأحداث مأسوية عاشها الجميع بلا استثناء ...
"ليلا" تلك المرأة التي تعرف تتقن السيطرة على مسببات خوفها ، ترتجف بداخلها ومع ذلك ترهب من يحاول اخضاعها بثباتها وصلابتها ، ممتلئة بطموحات لا يكبح جماحها ..
تعرف كيف تستعيد ما انتزع منها ، لا تسلم بالخسارة ، تعرف كيف بعدما يتهدم كل شيء تعيد بناءه ، وتستعيد حياتها من جديد ...
أما " ايلينا" امرأة يصعب التحدث عنها ، تعجز عند محاولة توصيف شخصيتها ، هى مجتهدة ،مثابرة ، استطاعت ان تصبح السيدة المثقفة ، التي تعرف تجمع الافكار المتبعثرة وتحيكها من جديد في صورة منطقية مقبولة ، ولكن عندما حاولت ان تصوغ حياتها بمعزل عن " ليلا" ، تراها تسلم لتشكيل ذاتها وفقاُ لتصورات الآخرين ورؤياهم ، امرأة يصعب التعرف على كينونتها ، مخيبة للآمال على الدوام
ليست سوى صورة ضبابية مهتزة لا تتعرف على ماهيتها ابداً ..، تفتقد الثقة بقدراتها ، تنتظر اراء الآخرين وتعلق نجاحها عليها ، تعطل ذكاءها وتنصاع وراء رغبتها اللعينة لتحطم حياة جاهدت طويلاً في تشييدها ، ها هي تهوي بنفسها فى هوة سحيقة مظلمة برفقة الشخص الذي تدرك في قرارة نفسها بأنه ليس منقذها بل من سيتسبب في ضياعها وحتماً سيحيل حياتها إلى جحيم ....
وبالطبع ستتلهف على ملاحقة حياة " ليلا" و " ايلينا" في الجزء الرابع.....
Profile Image for Ola Al-Najres.
383 reviews1,111 followers
April 1, 2018
بعد ثلاث أجزاء من السلسلة بتُ على قناعة أنّ :
1- كتابات إيلينا فيرانتي كالأطعمة الإيطالية . تقرأ الأولى بسلاسة و استلذاذ تناولك للثانية ، حتى تنتهي منها فتتراكم و تتزاحم الأفكار في رأسك كتراكم و تزاحم الدهون في الجسد .

2- ليلّا و لينو هما تجسيد روائي لتناقضات الإنسان الواحد ، هذه التناقضات مرتبطة ببعضها ارتباط الظل بالنور ، و في زاوية ما هما مظاهر مختلفة لمضمون وحيد .

3- لا عدو للمرأة إلا المرأة ، لا عدو للمرأة إلا ذاتها .

في هذا الجزء - و بعد مرحلتي الطفولة و المراهقة في الجزئين السابقين - نتابع الحكاية في مرحلة النضج العشرينيّ .
بدءاً بنجاح رواية لينو بين نهاية درب و بداية آخر ، هذا النجاح الذي كُلل بمباركة إيطالية شاسعة و قوبل باستهجان الحي النابوليتاني . مما أوصل خواطري لمقولة محمد الماغوط :  لا تكن متفوقاً في عالم منحط لأنك ستكون بقعة عسل في عالم من الذباب 
متبوعاً بزواجها الرتيب و أمومتها المتذبذبة و رحلة اكتشاف ذاتها المُستعارة سواء كموهبة أو ثقافة ..
مروراّ بحياة ليلّا -و هو ما جاء تكرار لما كُتب سابقاً - : تمردها ، ألمعيتها ، جاذبيتها ، شرورها ، ظلالها ، طباعها ، و هيمنتها الساحقة على جميع من عرفوها ..
وصولاً لظهور تأثير ليلّا الجلي على طباع لينو بعد تسرب ليلّا في أعماق شخصيتها مدة ثلاثين عاماً .

فينتهي هذا الجزء بتكرار مشهد نسف الروابط الأسرية و تمجيد التمرّد الوارد في الجزء الثاني ، و الذي تخطو فيه لينو خطوات ليلّا باتجاه الشخص ذاته : نينو ساراتوري .

أحببت هذا الجزء أكثر من سابقيه ، تعمّقت فيه إيلينا فيرانتي في وصف الذات الأنثوية حتى شعرت أنّ هذا الكتاب يقرؤني و ليس أنا من يقرأه . و لا أعتبر ليلّا و لينو إلا الجانبين المظلم و المشرق لي و لأي امرأة .

النجمة الخامسة مسلوبة للكلمات البذيئة هنا و هناك ، و إن أرادت بها وصف حالة تهيّمن على طباع و تصرفات فئات معينة من المجتمع ، لكنّها عكرت استمتاعي بالرواية .

و الآن ، توديع مؤقت لأصدقائي الإيطاليين ... حتى اللقاء المنتظر في الجزء الرابع و الختامي . 😊
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,022 reviews881 followers
August 30, 2017
I am completely and utterly spellbound, bewitched. Each novel in the series is getting me more hooked.

Again, where do I start? I'll just write a few thoughts.

It's the 70s. Elena is married to her university boyfriend, who's now a Professor and a very dull individual. Ferrante is brilliant at conveying the loneliness of domesticity. The conflict between loving your family and wanting to be there for them and the mind-numbness of the constant chores. Even the sex is a chore. Elena is disappointed to discover how little her husband cares for her opinion, actually, he never seeks her opinion for anything intellectual or work related. Why has she put all that effort into studying, into making herself into something? So many conflicting thoughts and feelings.

The world is changing. The Italian society is undergoing changes and there's a lot of violence, even in Florence where Elena and her family live.

Lila meanwhile has moved back to the old neighbourhood. The contact between Elena and Lila is either sporadic with long periods of no contact or frequent over the phone. Elena still seeks Lila's approval and wonders frequently what would Lila think, do. Of course, Lila is still finicky and unreliable and very stubborn.

Nino, Elena's biggest love and Lila's former lover, reappears into Elena's life. He's also a professor and has work relationships with Piedro, Elena's husband.

This volume also ends on a cliffhanger. So bring on the end of the month, when I'm due to get my hands on the 4th instalment. I can't wait.
Profile Image for Carmo.
634 reviews463 followers
December 14, 2016
Também eu fui contagiada pela ferrantefever, e neste momento a única terapêutica é saber como isto vai acabar.
Nestes dias de leitura e em conversas a propósito da mesma, tenho tido alguma dificuldade em explicar o tema dos livros. É que, se para o primeiro volume é aceitável dizer que é a história da amizade entre duas raparigas e da vida no bairro onde vivem, nos seguintes a narrativa vai ganhar densidade a nível pessoal das personagens, assim como aprofundar temas com raízes bem reais e mostrar uma realidade sócio-cultural numa época de intensas mudanças políticas que não se confinaram a Nápoles.
O resto pode-se dizer que é comezinho, banal! O que não lhe retira importância; toda a nossa vida, a vida de todo o ser humano se pauta por essas singularidades; por dúvidas permanentes, por decisões tomadas na incerteza, pela necessidade de encontrar um caminho, um lugar no mundo que nos dê identidade e nos distinga.

E talvez o mais cativante destes livros seja a constante surpresa; nada nos faz prever o passo seguinte, nada nos prepara para as súbitas mudanças de rumo das personagens...a única saída é continuar a ler...

Sendo assim...licencinha, tenho ali o quarto volume à minha espera!

Profile Image for Maria Bikaki.
781 reviews376 followers
July 30, 2017
Δεν ξέρω αν θυμάστε που σας έγραφα στην κριτική του 2ου βιβλίου ότι δε μπορώ να βγάλω άκρη με αυτές τις δύο τύπισσες και δε μπορώ να καταλάβω προς τι όλος αυτός ο ντόρος για τις περιπέτειες τους. Ανάμεσα σε όλα είχα γράψει ότι ένα από τα δικά μου θέματα ήταν ότι δε μπορούσα να νιώσω κανένα απολύτως συναίσθημα για τις 2 κεντρικές ηρωίδες πέρα του γεγονότος ότι ούτε η ιστορία που διηγείται η συγγραφέας μου δημιούργησε κάποιο ιδιαίτερο συναίσθημα. Επειδή όμως δεν ξέρω γιατί το σύμπαν έχει αποφασίσει να μου φέρνει ένα ένα τα βιβλία μπροστά μου και επειδή πιστεύω στα σημάδια γενικά λέω δε βαριέσαι ας το πιούμε και αυτό το ποτήρι. Και το ήπια. 2 αστεράκια όπου το ένα το χαρίζω σε μένα γιατί το αξίζω διάολε αφού επιτέλους καμιά χιλιάρα σελίδες αργότερα κατέληξα στο εξής συμπέρασμα. Έλενα και Λίλα άντε γεια σας μισώ θανάσιμα τελικά. Σέβομαι όλα τα όμορφα λόγια που έχετε γράψει οι περισσότεροι από σας για την συγκεκριμένη τετραλογία αλλά ειλικρινά εγω εξακολουθώ να μη μπορώ να βρω κάτι θετικό που να με βάλει στην ιστορία και μάλιστα με εχουν εκνευρίσει τόσο πολύ αυτές οι δύο τύπισσες που λυπάμαι που δεν είναι δικό μου το βιβλίο αλλά δανεισμένο για να μπορώ να το σκίσω μία μία σελίδα μην πω να τα κανω παρανάλωμα του πυρός. Διάολε που είναι αυτές οι δύο φιλενάδες και πρέπει να συγκινηθούμε και από πάνω. Δε μου λέτε στο τέταρτο βιβλίο πεθαίνουν και οι δυο να το διαβάσω να λυτρωθώ η αναγνώστρια?
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,146 reviews500 followers
April 29, 2015
Political turmoil rages through the Italian landscape when Elena finally gets married to her professor, Pietro Airota, and Lila has settled down living with Enzo. Their worlds are a million miles apart as far as the two different lifestyles they have chosen is concerned.

It doesn't take long for Elena to realize, what Lila could have told her anyway:
Marriage by now seemed to me an institution that, contrary to what one might think, stripped coitus of all humanity."
Years pass in which they do not have contact. But then of course, Lila's capricious behavior gets Elena back into her life when the latter is sanctioned to urgently see Lila. Elena's book has just been published and she is dying to share the news with Lila. Lila's world has stopped, while Elena's was still in full motion. Lila was suffering, while Elena was riding the wave of success. Lila's anomalous nature soon has Elena running around again to safe her.

The political tumult in Italy is as tempestuous as the relationships between the different inhabitants of the poor neighborhood in Naples.

Lila was creating a novel with real characters, real blood.
Elena wanted to write a novel with fictional characters.
Lila was not afraid to live history.
Elena researched history from her safe academic and intellectual pedestal.

Lila was again Lila: Lila went, Lila did, Lila met, Lila planned. Whatever she set her mind to, happened. Unfortunately it was not always out in the open.

Elena was out to please the world.

In between the two poles lies the community within a potential volatile political landscape where people can get killed ...
"The new living flesh was replicating the old in a game, we were a chain of shadows who had always been on the stage with the same burden of love, hatred, desire, and violence."
My fingers are actually falling over themselves here on the keyboard in trying not to reveal the plot. An amazing plot it certainly is. It took me by surprise, although this is the third book in this series, and by this time it should have been quite obvious what lies ahead. But as the story progresses, slowly turning full circle, surprising elements emerges which bind all the subtle hints together in unexpected twists.

It is certainly one of the most outstanding series of books, which defines women of all ages in all their glorious splendor. A complete picture is painted through all the different characters in the plot. They all have their own stories, linked to Lila and Elena through many hardships and moments of happiness (even if it superficial), flowing through the community like the blood in the streets.
"Lila noticed yet again the anxious pleasure of violence. Yes, she thought, you have to strike fear into those who wish to strike fear into you, there is no other way, blow for blow, what you take from me I take back, what you do to me I do to you."
In the previous book I wanted to shake Lila. In this book I wanted to shake Elena twice as hard! But true to their story, when the one is up, the other one is down.

Combine rigorous research, astonishing imagination, a unique narration, and fill it up with real life characters, and you've got this riveting tale about women.

This is an incredibly strong story. The third books is even better than the first two. Now the wait for the fourth book is here. September 2015. Yes, the final installment in this saga will then be published. It better bring this torment to an end. It better be very good. :-))

And yep, the cliffhanger ending is there again. Yes. September 2015. I will have to get over this!
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