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418 pages, Paperback
First published October 30, 2013
"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 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.
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.”
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)
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 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.
"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.