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L'amica geniale #4

The Story of the Lost Child

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"Nothing quite like this has ever been published before," proclaimed The Guardian about the Neapolitan novels in 2014. Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, Elena Ferrante tells the story of a lifelong friendship between two women with unmatched honesty and brilliance.

The Story of the Lost Child is the concluding volume in the dazzling saga of two women — the brilliant, bookish Elena, and the fiery, uncontainable Lila. Both are now adults, with husbands, lovers, aging parents, and children. Their friendship has been the gravitational center of their lives. Both women fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up — a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. In this final novel she has returned to Naples, drawn back as if responding to the city's obscure magnetism. Lila, on the other hand, could never free herself from the city of her birth. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect the neighborhood. Proximity to the world she has always rejected only brings her role as its unacknowledged leader into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable.

The four volumes in this series constitute a long remarkable story that readers will return to again and again, and each return will bring with it new revelations.

473 pages, Paperback

First published October 29, 2014

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About the author

Elena Ferrante

34 books13.3k 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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66,201 (56%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,834 reviews
Profile Image for Diane.
1,079 reviews2,607 followers
December 2, 2015
This novel nearly broke me.

The Story of the Lost Child is beautifully heartbreaking. It is the culmination of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series, and it wraps up the story of two friends, Elena and Lila. I spent my summer with these two women. I read the first book, My Brilliant Friend, just to see what all the Ferrante Fever fuss was about, and I didn't expect to read any more of the series. But I ended up intrigued and wanting more, and I gobbled up Books 2 and 3 as quickly as I could.

In this fourth book, Elena has run away from her marriage to Pietro and has a passionate affair with Nino, the boy she has loved since childhood. Lila is opposed to the affair, and the women's friendship becomes even more strained. Meanwhile, Elena's writing career has ups and downs, and Lila becomes entangled in the underground politics of their old neighborhood in Naples.

It is hard to explain to someone who hasn't read Ferrante why these novels are so powerful. On the surface, they sound like any other domestic drama — two women living their lives, experiencing love and loss, going through the highs and lows of marriage and parenthood.

But it's not that simple. Their lives are so well-drawn, their emotions and experiences are so real, and the history and neighborhoods of Italy are so well-described that this book feels more like an autobiography than a novel. The Ferrante books are rich in the same way that Tolstoy's novels are a feast. To paraphrase an Internet meme, One does not simply read a Ferrante book. One lives it.

I have become deeply connected to Elena and Lila over these four books. When Elena's mother is diagnosed with cancer, and Elena has to care for her, I nodded in sympathy, for I, too, am caring for a mother with cancer. When Elena experiences incredible heartbreak, I empathized and remembered my own heartbreak. When Lila suffers a devastating loss and is consumed with manic grief, I thought of my own despair after a loss.

Some reviewers have said this fourth novel is the best one in the series. I honestly couldn't rank them. They are all part of one epic story, and I feel both sadness and triumph now that I have finished reading. Sad because I will miss spending time with these amazing women, and triumph at what Ferrante has accomplished. Truly, this is a modern masterpiece.

Favorite Quotes
"How many words remain unsayable even between a couple in love, and how the risk is increased that others might say them, destroying it."

"Good feelings are fragile, with me love doesn't last. Love for a man doesn't last, not even love for a child, it soon gets a hole in it. You look in the hole and you see the nebula of good intentions mixed up with the nebula of bad."

"I thought: maybe every relationship with men can only reproduce the same contradictions and, in certain environments, even the same smug responses."

"From childhood I had given her too much importance, and now I felt as if unburdened. Finally it was clear that what I was wasn't her, and vice versa. Her authority was no longer necessary to me, I had my own. I felt strong, no longer a victim of my origins but capable of dominating them, of giving them a shape, of taking revenge on them for myself, for Lila, for whomever."

"One writes not so much to write, one writes to inflict pain on those who wish to inflict pain. The pain of words against the pain of kicks and punches and the instruments of death."

"Where is it written that lives should have a meaning?"

"I was distressed that nothing of me would endure through time."

"Unlike stories, real life, when it has passed, inclines toward obscurity, not clarity."
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,946 followers
December 30, 2018
After re-reading this series, I can confirm it's one of my all-time favorites. Ferrante is a writer I admire so much, and like I said in my original reviews, one that I know confidently I can, and will, read again and again throughout my life.

Original Review:
I'm done. I'm actually done. The journey is over, and what a wonderful journey it was. Maybe soon I will be able to write a better review, but for now I can only say that this series is truly unlike anything I've read. It's a modern masterpiece, and Elena Ferrante is one of the greatest living authors. I'm sure to revisit these books again and again and again. In the mean time, goodbye Lila & Lenu. It's been a pleasure.

First read: March 26 - April 1, 2016
Second read: December 26 - 30, 2018
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,663 followers
September 18, 2015
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land

Lost in a Roman...wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

~The Doors, "The End"

Nothing about the way the Neapolitan Novels has captured and held me spellbound makes sense. Pages of expository text barely broken by a paragraph indent; characters relentlessly bashing their heads against poverty and violence, returning again and again to the places and people that have caused them the greatest misery; periods of hope and redemption brought to bitter ends by poor choices and slashing domestic acrimony. And yet. And yet. I know that by reading Elena Ferrante's bildungsroman, I have partaken in one of the greatest literary journeys, feasts, dreams, accomplishments of the 21st century. It isn't so much that the Neapolitan Novels, built on the simple premise of a female friendship from childhood to old age, breaks new ground. It's that Ferrante returns us to the best of what we can be as readers: thoughtful, patient, introspective, willing to dig deep into layers of meaning, to see beyond the cold surface of quotidian events to the simmering magma of emotion beneath. In eras past, Eliot, Mann, Tolstoy, Woolf, Hardy demanded the same and the rewards of Ferrante are as great.

This final installment brings Elena Greco full circle, back to the neighborhood she fled as a young woman—first to the towers of academe, then to literary acclaim, spending her young adulthood and her early years as a wife and mother in the orderly, civilized north of Italy. But as her friend Lila had done years before, Elena throws propriety and security to the winds and follows her passion back to Naples, the scene of so much crime in the streets, so many crimes of the heart. That passion is the fickle Nino, the man-boy to whom both women sacrifice their burgeoning self-determination. I'm just full of lyrics today—as I think of Nino, of young Lila's and not-so-young Elena's obsession with his empty soul, I hear Paul Simon lamenting: "I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear And disregards the rest, hmmmm".

We know from the very beginning—hundreds of pages ago, when we embarked on this political and personal Odyssey—that Lila has disappeared as an elderly woman, at the twisted and burnt end of her rope. But where has she gone? The legacy she leaves behind is that molten lava roiling beneath the surface, and in The Story of the Lost Child, the hard, black earth is rent open, letting the impossible heat burst forth. Elena seems more curious than concerned by Lila's disappearance. Her friend's presence hovers, thick and insistent, over every aspect of her life; Lost Child illustrates how and why this friendship has endured despite the psychological damage each woman inflicts on the other.

The title, The Story of the Lost Child, can be taken for its literal meaning, as the plot bursts with tension and tragedy. But the entire collection speaks to children lost in this Neapolitan ghetto, the children we met pages and heartbreaks ago. We witnessed their twisted paths to adulthood over the course of four novels, until at last we npw stand with them at a reckoning place. The great loss is the reader's, knowing we must bid our final goodbyes to the Grecos, Cerullos, Carraccis, Pelusos, Sarratores and so many others, with so much left unsaid and unknown.

And undone. Oh, how our hearts are utterly undone.
Profile Image for Warwick.
809 reviews14.4k followers
April 4, 2018

The tunnel on the edge of the neighbourhood, beyond which Lila couldn't pass.

When I arrived in Naples I had just read the Claudio Gatti article which claimed to expose Elena Ferrante's real identity. I remembered being amazed, when it had come out back in 2016, by the fury it had provoked. People were outraged! Not just readers but literary editors too had lined up to condemn the piece – putting across, in the process, a lot of wrong-headed ideas about ‘the death of the author’ which should really have been kept separate from the ethical concerns in question.

But now I've finished the last book I think I understand the disproportionate reaction a bit better. The Story of the Lost Child is, like its three predecessors, a bit of a messy novel, stylistically indifferent, but intensely emotional and involving. And everyone struggles to understand why. Despite what some reviews imply, this kind of long, female-focused Künstlerroman is not a complete novelty – it's not a million miles from Doris Lessing's Children of Violence sequence, or AS Byatt's Frederica quartet – and even the notion of a woman trying to piece together the details of her friend's life is, if Gatti is right, probably lifted from Christa Wolf's The Quest for Christa T. But Ferrante's characters – especially the flinty, talismanic Lila – are so comprehensively imagined that they must, you feel, reflect something essentially autobiographical, something profoundly true, on the part of the author.

So I get to Naples. I've just read book four, I've just read Gatti's article. I want to go and see the rione or ‘neighbourhood’ where the books are set, which is a run-down little area of estates in the eastern suburbs called the Rione Luzzatti. I ask a few cab drivers: they won't take us to that part of town. ‘The criminal families live there,’ one leers. Then I try some tour agents – they all refuse as well. One of them even specialises in Elena Ferrante tours, but it turns out on further inquiry that they just go to the upmarket Piazza dei Martiri (where the characters go shopping when they've got some money) and the historical centre. ‘The rione is not good for tourists,’ I am told. ‘Actually, even we do not go there.’

Eventually, though, I find someone who knows someone who has a friend who will take us. Laura, who grew up in the rione herself, comes to meet us: she is super friendly and, far from being offended by our desire to gawk at her childhood stomping-ground, which is what I'd been worried about, she actually seems rather touched by it, and is genuinely excited about the chance to show us around. We walk down the famous stradone, litter-swept and bleak, and peer through grates into communal cellars like the one where Lila dropped Lenù's doll. We walk through the tunnel that marked the edge of the girls' world, where some of the lights have been smashed, the better to mug people walking back home from the nearest metro station. We walk by the school, where 11-year-old Laura had to fend off knife crime from 16-year-olds who had been held back so many times they were sitting right next to her in class. We creep into the courtyard where Lila's apartment is set and where, locals are convinced, from cross-referencing details in a variety of books and articles, Ferrante herself once lived.

Ferrante's old apartment. Maybe.

Laura and her friends, she says, are proud and happy that Ferrante has now immortalised the place ‘for something positive – for books, for literature’. I am a little surprised, if only because, in the novels, the locals are not so happy when Lenù starts writing about the area.

But of course, Elena Greco is not Elena Ferrante. It's always an effort to remember that, because that's the conceit that the books are selling: an author called Elena writing a narrator who is an author called Elena. Draw your own conclusions, they suggest. And yeah, they must surely contain lots that is true, like all good fiction does. But reading these books is such an overwhelming experience that the slightest retreat from autobiography starts to feel almost unacceptable: OK, OK, maybe you've reordered events a bit, drawn out a couple of poetic coincidences, conflated a couple of minor characters here and there – but the essentials are true, right? You really grew up like this, didn't you? There's a real Lila out there somewhere…yes?

The Bar Parisi, the assumed original of the Solaras' bar

The idea that the author could be in here somewhere, waiting to be found, is helped along by the books' constant theme of authorship and unstable identities. We don't know who wrote what, only that both Elena and Lina have been writing something; Elena worries that Lina has quasi-mystically entered into her computer to tell her story her own way; then she denies it. There is an almost Nervalian reduplication of women, starting with the Lenù/Lila pairing, one blonde, one brunette, one who leaves, one who stays, one who writes fiction, the other who writes computer code;

I fair, she dark, I calm, she anxious, I likeable, she malicious, the two of us opposite and united….

Even their daughters are mistaken for each other, misidentified. And Lina is further refracted into their friend Alfonso, who looks like her and starts to dress like her, too. At times, Lina the character seems to recognise her own fluidity. She talks about disappearing, about erasing herself; she does in fact vanish without trace. And she has regular psychological episodes of smarginatura, the ‘bleeding’ of one object or person into another, which Ann Goldstein translates a little awkwardly as dissolving boundaries. All of this is, really, in the service of the fantasy of an ‘Elena Ferrante’ who can become whoever we need her to be for the novels to have the greatest power for us.

Piazza Salvatore Lobianco

Standing in the little square, Hannah and I get a bit emotional. Actually, the area is a lot like parts of Livingston, where my wife grew up; it's like run-down, neglected suburbs in a lot of cities. To elevate this kind of urban wasteland into something transcendent seems like a heroic feat – it suddenly reminds me a bit of what Alan Moore did with Northampton, though it's even more impressive because there are no forgotten historical riches underlying the Rione Luzzatti – it's just stark, rationalist housing, built by Fascists, and subsequently ignored. Until Ferrante.

But again I check myself immediately. I'm constructing my own emotional story of what Ferrante did, the same way all readers of these books do. How much difference would it make if that isn't her apartment, if she grew up miles away in Rome, if her husband was the one with the Neapolitan childhood, the dialect? If it was all a brilliant fabrication? What would that do to our experience of the books?

It's almost – I say to Hannah – like the greatest creation in these novels is not anyone listed in the cast, but ‘Elena Ferrante’ herself. Hannah nods. But all morning we stare at every old woman we pass, searching for Lila Cerullo's face.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews2,891 followers
October 30, 2016
I’ve never read a series before. Finally I understand why people sleep outside bookstores the day before the next instalment is due to be published. Were there to be a book five I might well zipper myself inside a bag outside Feltrinelli the night before release. Except there will be no next instalment here. I’m done. Lila has left my life and I will never know anything more about her. I feel horribly bereft.

Book Four has less of a feel of fictional memoir about it; it reads more like a novel. It contains some clever post-modernist tricks, most notably the book within a book theme. Elena Greco finally writes about Lila, except it isn’t these books (these books play no part whatsoever in her story); it’s a seventy page novella called Friendship. Meanwhile she has the suspicion that Lila is writing secretly about Naples. In spirit, these have always been Lila’s books. Now Elena lets slip the possibility that maybe they really are Lila’s books. Vanity is probably the central theme of this book but authorship is also a prevailing theme. Ferrante asks many probing questions about the nature of authorship. And we end up asking, who is the author of the Neapolitan series?

Elena becomes rather more disagreeable in this book. She becomes vain and a bit petty. Especially in contrast to Lila, who seems to live without any recourse to vanity, which is why perhaps she’s such a compelling and deeply fascinating character. The only other author I can recall who attempted to create a character free of vanity was Dostoevsky with The Idiot and, brilliant as that was, I'd have to say Ferrante did a better job than he did. It began to bother me how disagreeable I was finding Elena and her vanity. I wasn’t at all sure this was what Ferrante intended. Then I realised that what Ferrante intended was probably exactly the confusion I was feeling. This isn’t one of those run of the mill novels where every character is morally and emotionally consistent and so has a clearly designated and manipulative charge and endgame. It’s a novel that constantly springs surprises, that constantly makes you stop and question lazy emotional and moral assumptions you realise you harbour. One thing Ferrante does so well is get at the anatomy of every strong emotion. Emotions aren’t single and straightforward. Every emotion carries the charge of its opposite. Emotion in fact is often us arguing with ourselves. She shows how hate can be simultaneously present with love, jealousy with aspiration, admiration with resentment, conviction with doubt. I don't think any writer has done arguing better than Ferrante. You could say the books are one protracted argument – everyone is constantly arguing, romantically, domestically, politically, socially - and you come to realise that this what life is, a long protracted messy argument. Lila is almost like some magical touchstone creature. Even when she appears to be wrong she turns out to be right. I don’t think she’s wrong once in the entire novel and yet she’s far from some simplistic Obi Wan Kenobi; she’s hugely complex, volatile, divisive, contradictory, spontaneous, calculated, adorable, obnoxious. She bristles with lived life on every page. In contrast, the more of Elena’s vanity we see the more we doubt that Elena Greco could have written these novels. You begin to feel only Lila could have.

For me Lila is up there with Anna Karenina, Molly Bloom and Mrs Ramsey as one of the great female characters of literature. No question in my mind Ferrante will be on the classics shelf in two hundred years.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,100 reviews1,592 followers
December 27, 2022

Diventare amiche: …mi diede la mano. Questo gesto cambiò tutto tra noi per sempre.

Per il primo paio di pagine ho fatto un po’ fatica a riannodare il filo: benché il racconto riprenda esattamente dal punto dove era stato interrotto la volta precedente, alla fine del terzo romanzo, Storia di chi parte e di chi resta, è comunque passato un anno da allora.
Ma è stata una sensazione di breve durata: in poco tempo Elena Ferrante mi ha preso e portato via, mi ha trascinato con sé, all’inseguimento della vita e nella vita - nella vita dei suoi personaggi, incalzandoli, seguendoli, entrando nel loro intimo, nei recessi più nascosti, negli umori cattivi, per quanto a volte innocui.

La bambola e l’ombra di don Achille.

Sempre con quella sua caratteristica che consiste nel sapere svelare e mostrare il lato oscuro e meno gradevole dell’animo umano, la dark side quotidiana, quella con cui si convive ogni giorno, la grettezza la meschinità la malizia la gelosia la violenza l’invidia la malignità l’intolleranza con cui ogni giorno dialoghiamo, vuoi per sopprimerle o metterle a tacere, vuoi per dar loro un po’ di sfogo.
Quale più, quale meno. Chi più, chi meno.

È come un’onda, di quelle grandi, che crea un tunnel, e io lettore ci sono dentro, nel tunnel, trasportato dalla forza dell’acqua, surfando come se fossi nato sulla tavola.

Catherine McCormack-Lila, straordinaria.

È una lettura che crea dipendenza, assuefazione, come già lo hanno fatto le oltre mille pagine che hanno preceduto queste: la dose quotidiana non può scendere sotto le cento pagine.

Ferrante scava, va al fondo dell’oscurità, la racconta con precisione.
E verrebbe da sentirsi intrusi, indiscreti, spioni: non fosse che la qualità della scrittura è tale che questo rischio è evitato.

Poi si giunge all’epilogo, intitolato ‘Restituzione’: sono solo cinque pagine, non ci si può illudere, siamo arrivati alla fine.


Ecco, dopo, è proprio come nella canzone: la musica è finita, gli amici se ne vanno, e tu mi lasci solo più di prima…, la casa si svuota, improvvisamente non si sente più parlare, neanche una parola di napoletano, tutte quelle facce familiari, tutti quegli amici, quelle due bambine diventate adulte, e donne, e anziane, diventate soprattutto grandi, Grandi, tutte quelle storie, quei fatti, gli episodi, le partenze, i ritorni…

Beh, no, non proprio come nella canzone: sono finiti, ma non sono perduti, ci si sente soli, ma riscaldati, illuminati.

Le due amiche geniali, my brilliant friends.

Si è ripetuta la magia della grande letteratura.

Anche ora che sapevo della malattia di mia figlia, non riuscivo a cacciare via la soddisfazione per ciò che ero diventata, il gusto di sentirmi libera spostandomi per l’Italia, il piacere di disporre di me come se non avessi un passato e tutto stesse cominciando adesso.

Profile Image for Ilenia Zodiaco.
260 reviews12.6k followers
November 22, 2014
Posso esimermi dal dare un commento lucido e ragionato? Ho appena chiuso il volume. Ciò che sento è di aver lasciato una storia cattiva, smarginata, insalubre. È stato come guardare un pozzo nero, con qualche riflesso di luce appena che però mi ha abbagliato.
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,260 reviews5,046 followers
December 27, 2022
كثيرا ما نستغرق في عمل الصواب و تصحيح الاخطاء حتى يضيع منا اهم ما نعيش من اجله و ننسي ان الدم الفاسد لن يتطهر بضخ دم جديد بل لابد من اراقته و لو خرجت معه الروح
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نعم؛علينا الا نطالب بالمستحيل و أن ننعم بالممكن و
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لكن هل من الممكن ان نجد رواية اخرى تشخص اوجاعنا و تطلق اسماء على ما نعانيه و تشبهنا الى هذا الحد الصفيق؟

ا{انا كنت انا
بينما هي لم تكن تود ان تكون هي!!}ا
كم تلخصني الجملة الاخيرة بفجاجة
الرغبة في المحو الذاتي و الخوف من تحلل الأطراف هذا ما ستفوز به اذا كنت مثلي انا و ليلا عشت محاطا بأنطاع جاحدين

اما الوحدة الغضوبة فهي مصيرك اذا ظللت متارجح الموهبة منقادا لقلبك مثلي أنا و ايلينا
عن لعنة المكان و الزمان..عن ذكريات نزيفها لنتحمل اماكن قبيحة ونهايات اكثر قبحا. .عن سأم العمر و ثقله..عن ارث دماء فاسدة نحكي

ثلاثةوثلاثون عاما تستعرضهم فيرانتي بجرأتها الآسرة في ملحمتها الاخيرة عن لعبة الكراسي الموسيقية علي السيادة بين الاحزاب و راس المال ؛و بين أسر ذلك الحي الايطالي الملعون حيث سيخدمك من كنت خادمتهم في دورة الزمن الكاملة
Commercial Photographyاسرة اخيل كاراتشي

عن تلك الحارة النابولتانية التي تساوي = العالم

عن اول جيل من النساء يفرض عليه العمل..عن ثورة حبوب منع الحمل التي حررت نساء و استعبدت اخريات..عن جيل في عمر أمي و لكن لدهشتي ظهر لنا ان الوجع واحد و نقاط الضعف نحملها على ظهورنا عبر العقود و عبر القارات

عن النور الذي نفقده للابد اذا غرقنا في قاع من هو اقل منا

عن نابولي وتاريخ اللعنة الكامنة في سفوح الفيزوف
و التفسخ الذي ترزح تحته مؤسسة زواج تم تدميرها تقريبا في النصف الثاني من القرن العشرين
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عن المافيا و تحكمهم في تفاصيل الحياة و الموت و المرض و التجارة و الصناعة و الاخلاق و الزيجات ..عن الصديق عندما يتحول لعدو..عن ملائكة يدفعون فاتورة جيل ظل يحمل احقاد صباه كالحدبة
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عن الكتابة و تعريتها للكاتب واستمراريتها و علاقتها بالكابة و اليأس و قيمتها الحقة في رفعة المجتمع..عن الصداقةو الانوثة و الرجولة و ما بينهما ! عن الامومةو الخزى و الدونية و الأفراح المجهضة دوما تحكي فيرانتي بلغة مضطربة مؤلمة مكثفة المشاعر في سرد صار لغزا بحد ذاته
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بواقعيتها المقيتة انحازت هنا للشغف على حساب الحب.. و للقبح على حساب الجمال و للشر على حساب الخير ..حمل الجزء الأخير أسفار نهايات مذهلة جعلت من رباعية نابولي "عراب"ل القرن الحادى و العشرين

في الجزء المخفي من الريفيو تحليلي المتواضع للشخصيات الرئيسية

Profile Image for Francesca Marciano.
Author 18 books245 followers
December 28, 2014
There is a terrible sense of loss once you reach the last line of the last volume of Ferrante's saga, her writing is so addictive, it has kept me company for over a year now and waiting for the next installment of the story has been a delightful suspense.I feel abandoned to my own device now that the curtain fell on this wonderful story. The last volume "La bambina Perduta" has just been published in Italy,so I've devoured it in three days and it's not a disappointment. It has a somehow slow start, with a tremendous and unexpected twist that comes as a blow half way through the book. Her writing keeps digging, like a furious fox terrier the depths and the folds of the relationship between Lena and Lila. This writer has a ferocity and a depth that I've rarely encountered.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 2 books5,414 followers
February 15, 2020
I can't believe it's over! I mean really, after finishing Ferrante's riveting tetralogy, I feel a sense of loss. The fourth volume was fast-paced and full of reveals (no spoilers!). It was hard to read at several points, but always entertaining and thought provoking. If you have not read it yet, please do so this year. Definitely a journey to Naples that you do not want to miss.

One thing that struck me with this series is the similarities and differences with another classic story which crosses four decades in as many books: the Rabbit Tetralogy by John Updike. I have reviewed all four Rabbit books here in GR, but if you are not familiar with them, Updike follows Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom from the 50s to the 80s with one book per decade. The Ferrante series is similar even if the boundaries are not drawn as clearly between books as in Updike and covers roughly the same period as the Neapolitan series. Similarly, the character of Rabbit is deeply developed like that of Lena and Lila. Where Rabbit is quintessentially American in his own unique and depraved way, Lena and Lila are quintessentially Neapolitan. I think that rural Pennsylvania and metropolitan Naples are quite different geographically, but both serve as a evolving canvas backdrops upon which the central dramas play out. I just think that if you read the Updike books, you'd probably enjoy the Ferrante ones and vice versa in terms of a look a slice of life from the middle to the end of the 20th century seen on two different continents and from the perspective of the two sexes.

I really enjoyed the allegory of the doll which brought the story full circle from the beginning of the relationship between Lena and Lila and was a beautiful reminder of that first wonderful book. Further, the disappearance of Tina (for which I enjoyed the ambiguity, almost dreamlike, in not knowing definitively her fate) was also a beautiful allegory for the lost innocence (and sanity to a degree?) of Lila and the loss of intimacy between here and Lena.

In all four books, it was wonderful to feel Naples like a character in the book (much like Paris in L'Education Sentimental). There are moments when you feel like you are overhearing Lena and Lila in a café or crossing them in a park. The city evolves around them in colors, smells, and great differences in wealth and power.

There is a Proustian feel to Ferrante's writing, although as one of my friends pointed out, the male characters (Enzo, Piero, Nino, etc) here are not as three-dimensional as the female characters (whereas in La Recherche, Odille, Gilberte, and Albertine are all much more profound). But still there is a nice on-ne-sais-quoi in her phrasing, her descriptions, and her unique female sensibility that lends a limpidity and beauty to her prose that is just so pleasurable to read.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 28 books13.4k followers
March 2, 2018
[From Celle qui fuit et celle qui reste]

Whenever you read a book that the author seriously cared about, you realise after a while that in fact it's two books: there's the book that got written, the one you're holding in your hands, and there's the other book, the one the author wanted to write but couldn't, due to the problems inherent in being a mortal human being. Sometimes the distance between the two books is close enough that you can believe they're the same. (I don't know how one would improve Candide or Alice in Wonderland; maybe Voltaire and Carroll did). But in other cases, it's clear that the two books are different. The authors of the New Testament would have liked to set down a clear and complete account of the life of Jesus Christ and the events it inspired, but, since the four Gospels contradict each other on numerous points, they must have fallen short of their ambition. For similar but slightly more complicated reasons, it seems that Plato's Dialogues also fail to report accurately the teachings of Socrates. Moving on to more recent cases, Wittgenstein famously apologised for not being able to write a better book than the Philosophical Investigations, which nonetheless is often cited as the twentieth century's most influential work of philosophy; and, a personal favorite, Jan Kjærstad's Jonas Wergeland trilogy gives you numerous clues about the nature of the true, ideal version of the book, and how it differs from the imperfect copy you have received.

I think Elena Ferrante's L'amica geniale also belongs to this distinguished club. On the surface, the novel is straightforward. It appears to be a minutely detailed, ultra-realistic account of the narrator's life, starting with her childhood in a poor quarter of Naples and showing how she becomes a famous author who, in particular, has written this book. The unifying theme, which gives the novel its title, is her friendship with Lila, a woman she has known since they were both small children. If you read it in this way, it's easy to see why it's often been compared to Knausgård's Min kamp, another long and ostensibly autobiographical ultra-realistic novel. I did indeed start reading both Knausgård and Ferrante from this obvious point of view, and I'm not trying to convince you that there's anything wrong with that. Perhaps both novels are just what they appear to be on the surface. But, at least from my perspective, they diverged more and more as they progressed. What Knausgård wants to do, it seemed to me, is to show you how suspect the whole notion is of being a novelist. You take your life and the lives of the people around you, and you turn them into a story which you sell for money. There's a certain amount of this in Ferrante too, and some of the moral disgust that Knausgård so effectively inspires. But I don't think that's the core of the book.

Knausgård is, or at least pretends to be, an egotist, and his book is all about ego, and in interviews he sticks to the line that everything in it is true. But Ferrante has gone to great lengths to stay anonymous, and no one knows who she is. She drops hints in her novel, which contains numerous novels-within-the-novel, that at least some of it is true. Evidently the narrator, who's also called Elena and who also claims to have written the book, could to a certain extent be her. But it's also clear that Elena Greco can't be the same person as Elena Ferrante. And at the same time, she drops contradictory hints that the book may not really have been written by either Elena. Maybe it was written by Lila. But finally she denies this too.

The thing that makes the book so unusual is that it manages to keep the ambiguity between truth and fiction all the way through. We don't know if Elena really exists; all we know is that someone who calls herself Elena exists, that she wrote L'amica geniale, and that, in some unspecified way, it is inspired by real events. But more and more, one feels that the identity of the author is irrelevant. The important character isn't the vain, superficial, and not overly bright Elena. It's her friend Lila, who comes across as a truly admirable person; a person one could compare with Socrates, whom Plato says was, of all the men of his time he had known, "the wisest and justest and best". Lila is sometimes described in similar terms, by people who are surprised to hear themselves say it. Elena is ultimately disappointed with her novel, because she knows she has failed. She has lost Lila, and despite all her work she hasn't been able to tell us what she was really like.

Did Lila exist, in some sense? I assume we will never find out. But at least we have this account of her life, distorted and imperfect and incomplete as it is. It's a completely stunning achievement.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,849 reviews34.9k followers
August 25, 2016
Book Four....The Final Conclusion to the Neapolitan novels:

And so this story begins.....-[page 1]:
"From October 1976 until 1979, when I returned to Naples to live, I avoided resuming a steady relationship with Lila. But it wasn't easy. She almost immediately tried to reenter my life by force, and I ignored her, tolerated her, endured her. Even if she acted as if there were nothing she wanted more than to be close to me at a difficult moment, I couldn't forget the contempt with which she had treated me".
"Today I think that if it had been only the insult that wounded me – –You're an idiot,
she had shouted on the telephone when I told her about Nino, and she had never 'ever'
spoken to me like that before – – I would have soon calmed down. In reality, what mattered more than that offense was the mention of Dede and Elsa. Think of the harm you're doing to your daughters, she had warned me, and at that moment I had paid no attention. But over time those words acquired greater weight, and I returned to them often. Lila had never displayed the slightest interest in Dede and Elsa; almost certainly she didn't even remember their names. If, on the phone, I mentioned some intelligent remark they had made, she cut me off, changed the subject. And when she met them for the first time, at the house of Marcello Solara, she had confined herself to an
absentminded glance and a few pat phrases--she hadn't paid the least attention to how nicely they were dressed, and neatly their hair was combed, how well both were able to express themselves, although they were still small. And yet 'I' had given birth to them. 'I' I brought them up, they were part of me, who had been her friend forever: she should have taken this into account--I won't say out of affection but at least out of politeness – – for my maternal pride. Yet she hadn't even attempted a good-natured sarcasm; she had displayed indifference and nothing more. Only now--out of jealousy, surely, because I had taken Nino--did she remember the girls, and wanted to emphasize that I was a terrible mother, that although I was happy, I was causing them unhappiness. The minute I thought about it I became anxious. Had Lila worried about Gennaro when she left Stefano, when she abandoned the child to the neighbor because of her work in the factory, when she sent him to me as if to get him out of the way? Ah, I had my faults, but I was certainly more a mother and she was".

WOW.... Can you see how we might be for a ride for the next 473 pages?

Well, as much as I HAD THOUGHT I was going to be glad when I finished these 4 books.....
now, I'm not so sure. I'm sad! This 4th book broke my heart more than all three put together!

I can't help but wonder if other readers -'had/have' a long term friendship of 40 to 50 years. Any similarities to Elena and Lila? I also wonder what these stories might be like if Lila were the narrator.

Lisi and I met in 7th grade. Her real name is Ilyce. I went by my nickname, Liz in Jr. high school - and my real name is Elyse. Having similar names, with our school lockers back to back brought us together. An instant friendship it was. We are the same height, both Jewish--- but from very different types of families. Lisi introduced me to Goodreads. She was the reader as a child. Not me! The first time either one of us either had sex--- both late bloomers--- it was with the same guy! NOT AT THE SAME TIME!!! Me first- she later - a triangle messy drama -- which we survive with flying colors. Our friendship lasted longer than the guy. ( that's a very sad story:.he died)....

Lisi and I are still close friends -now in our 60's. Both of us have been married for approx 30 + years. Both have 2 daughters. Our husbands are good friends too....
Lisi and I have another friend- Renee. Renee was my closest friend - in a crazy - complex - deep way - more than with Lisi during our teen -growing years...
I spent most of my time with Renee. -- Long story....but after an almost 50 year friendship.....we aren't speaking today....(I quietly let her go- but maybe she had let me go years before I even noticed). Lisi and Renee are still in touch....
but .... I only have the memories we once shared....( over 40 years worth). I 'think' about our resuming our friendship often -- but it hasn't happened.

Woman's friendships may be the most complex relationships on the planet!!!!

My suggestion....( but it's only my opinion)....either read all 4 books -- or don't read any of them! I went into THE BINGE READERS CAVE......reading approx. 300+ pages a day - non -stop until I finished all 4 books - days and night. Took a few breaks, but not many.

Elena Ferrante....I think it's fair to say she's a great artist....an extremely gifted storyteller! Kinda a genius!

Profile Image for PorshaJo.
435 reviews655 followers
April 25, 2017
What can I say about this book that has yet to be said. This is the fourth and final book in The Neapolitan Novels. It is the culmination of the lifetime of two dominate, strong women. It is the story of one lost child and the impact it has on so many lives. But it's also so much more. It is the final story of many of the characters that lived in this town and came in and out of Lila and Elena lives.

I'm not sure how to feel about this one. On one hand, I'm happy to hear more of the story of these two women and all the wonderful characters in the neighborhood. But then, I'm sad as this is the final installment and I will no longer be able to hear more of them. Their life stories have been told. I will say, of all the books, this is my least favorite. Elena was so self-indulgent and selfish. She seems to thrive almost on the tension of her friendship with Lila. She seems obsessed about what Lila is doing and that she is better than Lila. Lila on the other hand, at times, I found her very mean. But is she stronger than Elena even though she has never left the neighborhood? I think through the love-hate relationship these two have, it pushes them to strive to find their better selves. And I would have thought by the fourth book I would remember who everyone is...but nope. There were times I still had to look someone up and figure out who they were. I also felt towards the end of the book, it seemed to move through 'life' rather quickly. All of sudden you got glimpses of things...Elena children/grandchildren, Lila's disappearance. I wanted more, I wanted the full details of the story.

This is a wonderful series of books that I would tell anyone to read. But be aware, there is murder, adultery, crime, death, drug abuse, violence within. After all these books, I still can't put my finger on why these books are so captivating. Perhaps it's the hope that this IS a true story, that it's based on real people. I listened to this entire series via audio narration and the narrator, Hillary Huber, is wonderful and gives life to these two amazing characters.
Profile Image for Candi.
598 reviews4,534 followers
February 16, 2018
3.5 stars

"I’ve been writing for too long, and I’m tired; it’s more and more difficult to keep the thread of the story taut within the chaos of the years, of events large and small, of moods. So either I tend to pass over my own affairs to recapture Lila and all the complications she brings with her or, worse, I let myself be carried away by the events of my life, only because it’s easier to write them."

Gosh, relationships - particularly those of the ‘girlfriends’ variety - are quite complex, aren’t they? Never before have I ever read about a friendship in such microscopic and candid detail as that of Elena and Lila. Never before have I been forced to examine my own friendships with such excruciating rigor. I’m honestly worn out! Yet, this series will stay with me forever. Having started Book 1, My Brilliant Friend, over a year ago, I have finally made my way through to this last in the series. I know, you���re probably thinking it took me a rather long time to get through a relatively short series; after all, there are only four books total. Personally, there’s no way I could have devoured these books one after the other, although many did just that.

I’ve reviewed the first three Neapolitan books, so I’m going to keep this relatively brief. Truly, the entire series feels like one long, epic novel, simply divided into four parts. Each builds on the previous installment in a linear fashion, therefore making it necessary to read them in order. I get the feeling that the entire collection is autobiographical in nature, although this last book has me really questioning exactly whose story is this – is it Elena’s, as I originally assumed, or is this truly Lila’s story? It is written from Elena’s first person point of view. Her character is that of an author; she has the fame from her books, has travelled and is formally educated. Lila on the other hand never left Naples, never finished high school. She remained in the violent neighborhood of her childhood, yet acquiring her own large degree of influence and success. In one sense, I have a difficult time separating Lila from the city of Naples itself, maybe even from the volatile mass of Mount Vesuvius, towering over all, sometimes explosive, other times merely smoldering, but always present. In any case, Lila is a fascinating character. "However much she had always dominated all of us and had imposed and was still imposing a way of being, on pain of her resentment and her fury, she perceived herself as a liquid and all her efforts were, in the end, directed only at containing herself. When, in spite of her defensive manipulations of persons and things, the liquid prevailed, Lila lost Lila, chaos seemed the only truth, and she – so active, so courageous – erased herself and, terrified, became nothing."

This novel is not only about the strength of a friendship, despite its changeability, but also an intelligent and thought-provoking discourse about motherhood, marriage, feminism, and the craft of writing. How is a woman’s identity shaped by education, culture, and her relationships with her children, her parents, her spouses, her lovers and her friends? It’s a tribute to Naples as only Lila can voice so passionately: "… what a splendid and important city: here all languages are spoken, here everything was built and everything torn down, here the people don’t trust talk and are very talkative, here is Vesuvius which reminds you every day that the greatest undertaking of powerful men, the most splendid work, can be reduced to nothing in a few seconds by the fire, and the earthquake, and the ash, and the sea."

Having closed the last page in The Story of the Lost Child, I have to make a small confession: I am relieved. I was overwhelmed by the time I reached the two-thirds point in this novel. It’s truly a mental exercise of Olympian proportions to examine in such detail the inner workings of a friendship to such length. You couldn’t pay me to do that with my own relationships – I may in the end have nothing left! Yet, I am quite pleased to have read these – Ferrante’s skill is indisputable.

"Unlike stories, real life, when it has passed, inclines toward obscurity, not clarity."
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,951 followers
April 4, 2018
This review originally appeared on my blog, ShouldaCouldaWoulda Books.

I’ve been writing for too long, and I’m tired; it’s more and more difficult to keep the thread of the story taut within the chaos of the years, of events large and small, of moods…What to do then? Admit yet again that she is right? Accept that to be adult is to disappear, is to learn to hide to the point of vanishing?

It’s been a few weeks, but I’m finally able to deal with this. This is the last novel in Elena Ferrante’s celebrated Neapolitan series. We’ve followed Lila and Elena from their barefoot girlhood in the tattered, broken courtyards of 1950s Naples to the period of dolce vita, that was only ever dolce for a select few (these girls only glimpsed its crumbs and its outskirts and found it terrifying), to the late 1960s and 1970s as they matured into wives and mothers and workers amidst gangs and class warfare and quasi-intellectual circles, socialist and violent communist politics and the awakening of feminism. They’ve made it to the 1980s now, carrying pieces of all of these things with them, jumbled up inside their heads and poking out at odd angles- as tends to happen when you’re carrying a suitcase with far too much inside that you haven’t quite figured out how to empty yet. “Made it” is really the key word here- as perhaps is the case with most people who make it to old age with any honesty and consciousness of what they’ve done. This book feels like the last gasp of someone who really wants to give up and say the hell with it- but can see the top of the mountain- and almost wishes she couldn’t, almost wishes that she had some excuse to sit down forever.

Elena and Lila are no longer girls in any sense of the word- they have lived what would have been even just a few decades earlier the better part of their lives. But that doesn’t mean anything real has changed, not really. Elena and Lila, in this novel, find themselves quite literally back where they started- back in that courtyard, still tied to each other more than anyone else. They still run and yell and hide on the stairways- the same stairways where they hid from the mysterious, supposedly monstrous Don Achille are now the same stairways where they now hide from their husbands, ex-husbands, ex-lovers, brothers, fathers, mothers, children- and, most heartbreakingly, from each other. They have become the monsters that sit at the end of the stairs.

There’s so much to talk about here, but for me, I can only talk about it by dealing with the main relationships of the novels, which, after all, are the only reason these stories exist at all. I’ve said before that the class-based insecurity and despair of these novels breaks my heart, and this was the final throwing up of the hands, the final ironic laugh. This is the story of how the cycle of poverty wins, nearly every time, even with those who spend their whole lives trying to escape it. Usually not with a bang, but with a thousand small, seemingly reasonable compromises, a million little cuts, a hundred “Well, why don’t you just….?”, a veritable boatload of, “Well, why does it matter so much anyway? Who do you think you are?”-s. It’s no coincidence that Elena’s relationship with her working-class mother, which powerfully haunted the background of the first novel and was a major motor of Elena’s drive to escape (no less powerful, in her way, than Lila, though often much less acknowledged) flings itself to the forefront of this one. She is that mother we all watched after the Ferguson protests, the one who beat her child publicly after discovering him participating in them, which was shared by some other mothers in a startlingly positive way, (which got less startling the more you thought about it).

Elena is brought down, punished, berated, and endlessly shamed for the crime of being successful enough to forget that she is not allowed to be human in the way that people who are born to the sort of status she has earned are human:

And yet in my memory that place-name, Montpellier, has for many reasons remained a symbol of escape. I had been out of Italy once, in Paris, with Franco, and I had felt exhilarated by my own audacity. But then it seemed to me that my world was and would forever remain the neighborhood in Naples, while the rest was like a brief outing in whose special climate I could imagine myself but never in fact be. Montpellier, on the other hand, although it was far less exciting than Paris, gave me the impression hat my boundaries had burst and I was expanding…It was marvelous to cross borders, to let oneself go within other cultures, discover the provisional nature of what I had taken for absolute.

Well how dare she, that uppity hussy. She forgot that she is not just a status-earning, status-protecting machine whose job is to be a repository of that status until she can pass it on to her children who are born to it, and therefore will never know anything else. The intellectual freedom, the grace and elegance, the ability to feel free, was once something that she genuinely craved and yearned towards- and is now the new set of chains she has made for herself once she discovers that those things will not save her. Her mother is there to beat every thought of self-actualizing out of her. It’s something that is not a part of her universe, something her mother has never been able to afford and something it enrages her that her daughter thinks she can afford. It is a harsh, but deeply understandable picture of a love between a mother and daughter who have never quite understood each other, and who have, actually, been each others' greatest fear in many ways.

What’s interesting is that other than one or two major through lines, this was a rather disjointed work. It covers more time than all the other books put together- it contains the reasons that this had to be written to begin with, and so had to be so. But it reads like a set of impressions from here and there that Elena finds so much harder to recall than the stories she tells from when she was nine until her mid thirties. I was surprised, after the immersive nature of the first volumes, how easily I slipped in and out of this one, largely due to this device- I am used to following Elena around and evidence of her older life has crept in, the closer she got to it. It is clear that she is older now, someone who has been a writer, a journalist, an editor, a manager, a mother, and that therefore it is hard to simply live in a genuine way without watching yourself and the events of your life with one of those hats on. Especially when she is purely talking about herself, especially after the mother of he she deals with herself with an irritable flick of the wrist.

It takes Lila to get her going again. Where is their friendship now? Lila has come up in the circle of fortune, at least in the first part of the book. She finally occupies the place that Elena has always seen her occupying- which read like a clear rebuke to the idea that Lila never needed Elena the way that Elena seemed to need her. But while Elena will never think Lila is less important, or less powerful in any way, by this point in her life she is able to see vulnerabilities in her that would never have occurred to her younger self (think back to the first and second book when we can see so many moments when Lila is scared, confused and vulnerable but Elena has no idea- that time they’re sexually harassed on the street, when she marries the former ganglord’s son to avoid having to marry the children of the current ganglord, that time Elena brings Lila-poor and separated and working at a sausage factory-her childhood story, full of hope that this will reignite the Lila she knew and Lila throws it on the fire). Elena is finally put in positions where she has to deal with a Lila whose weakness scares her, saddens her, and frightens her. It is something that has been hinted at before, in the narrative third person, but not something we’ve ever seen. In the midst of an earthquake that they both survive, pregnant together, Lila tells her what its like living inside of her head where everything has dissolving boundaries:

An object lost its edges and poured into another, into a solution of heterogeneous materials, a merging and mixing. She exclaimed that she had always had to struggle to believe that life had firm boundaries, for she had known since she was a child that it was absolutely not like that – and so she couldn’t trust in their resistance to being banged and bumped.

Elena has lived her whole life bumping up against the rules and finding them more solid than ever. The end of her life seems like one long confirmation that she has been breaking rules and that she should be punished for it- Lila has always lived understanding that everything is a construct and can easily become something else. She is scared of the impermanence of that, had accordingly, has hunkered down more and more tightly in the muck and mire of their Naples neighborhood, surrounding herself with all the rules and chains and barriers she can find- and still can’t seem to help but break the rules every day. Elena sees the place as a nightmare of inevitability, Lila as a bastion of stability that will keep her head screwed on straight- something that she unfortunately feels necessary to teach herself, being born where and when she was born. In this book, in their late “maturity”, then, both their childhoods finally end. Elena’s dies when she sees Lila’s inner struggles for the first time. Lila’s is done after Elena finds herself in the painful position of having to end her innocence, and, it seems, the basis of the friendship powered so many of her choices for more than thirty or forty years. The main event of the novel, for which it is named, ends up feeling like an emotional afterthought, something inevitable that proves the final end of the innocence that this book details.

What does this say, in the end, about friendship? It would be tempting to think that it seems to leave us in despair and darkness, showing us what not letting go can lead us to, the damage that retaining your girlhood, however subliminally, will wreak on your brain.

But that would be to forget the frame- to forget the woman we were introduced to in the first few pages of My Brilliant Friend who was told about how Lila disappeared and who seemed so tired, almost irritated, to be interrupted- and who then sat down and wrote for what must have been days, weeks, months, everything about her that she’ll never forget. Who still, at the end, seems to be trying to fulfill Lila’s faith in her, the faith that she broke, that she no doubt blames for what happened to her in some sense- and use her writing as a kind of black magic to conjure her up again... with just the sort of power that she and Lila always imagined that words had.

So perhaps they didn’t destroy each other in the end. Perhaps it is, after all, a story about how friends preserve the best of us, the things that are the most precious and real, even when we quite literally disappear on them. Friends freeze us in time and allow us to time-travel, and make us part of themselves. Now, as we’ve seen, we know that this isn’t always a positive effect- but it is, in the most lasting of friendships, forever. It is that rock that Lila always sought and couldn’t believe existed. We build ourselves out of our friends at the times when we are the most malleable and they can never be removed- whether it is them or our illusion of them- they’re not going anywhere. Lila and Elena, more than anyone else in their lives, dreamed each other into being. I skipped a part in that quote that I put up at the beginning, a part where Elena pauses to talk to herself while she is writing, re-setting and justifying her approach to her story:

I’ve been writing for too long, and I’m tired; it’s more and more difficult to keep the thread of the story taut within the chaos of the years, of events large and small, of moods. So either I tend to pass over my own affairs to recapture Lila and all the complications she brings with her or, worse, I let myself by carried away by the events of my life, only because it’s easier to write them. But I have to avoid this choice. I mustn’t take the first path, on which, if I set myself aside- I would end up finding ever fewer traces of Lila- since the very nature of our relationship dictate that I can reach her only by passing through myself.

But I shouldn’t take the second, either. That, in fact, I speak of my experience in increasingly greater detail is just what she would certainly favor. Come on- she would say- tell us what turn your life took, who cares about mine, admit that it doesn’t even interest you. And she would conclude: I’m a scribble on a scribble, completely unsuitable for one of your books; forget it, Lenu, one doesn’t tell the story of an erasure. What to do then? Admit yet again that she is right? Accept that to be adult is to disappear, is to learn to hide to the point of vanishing? Admit that, as the years pass, the less I know of Lila?

This whole book says NO as loudly as possible, it says no like a child who is denying the reality of the no while realizing sooner or later that she will need to confront it, realizing that it is there and angry about it, deflecting that anger onto everything around her, and it is only admitted at the very last.

I won’t reveal what Ferrante decides the end of Lila and Elena’s story is (if it is an end), but I will say that I believe that she agrees with me that whatever these women did to each other over the years, she doesn’t believe they destroyed each other. They made each other, for better or worse. And that (ALL of that- every last ugly, sad, joyous, nostalgic part of it) is what friendship is.

Don’t you agree?
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,632 followers
July 13, 2022
This fourth and final book in The Neapolitan Novels was good, but not as good as the other three novels. In this book, the narrator Elena becomes a lot more reflective, and the story is more about her children and their struggles than it is about Elena's and Lila's friendship. I liked how this implies that Elena is growing up and starting to care more about the people around her, but at the same time this book just didn't click as well with me as the other ones.
Another reason why I think this is the case is that by the time you get to this book, you're very much into the characters and the poor surroundings of Naples, and what surprised you in the first couple of books doesn't really surprise you anymore with this one. That being said, I still really appreciated this conclusion to the series, and I like how Elena is able to wrap up things beautifully in the end. There's no question that Elena and Lila have made an impact on me which will stay with me for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Lena.
167 reviews55 followers
July 31, 2022
Brutally honest and detailed family saga has come to an end and it was as brilliant as the whole story. If you've read previous book you already know what to expect and still will be thrilled.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,525 reviews756 followers
September 12, 2015
This is a two part review of the Neapolitan Novels as a whole: one about how good they are, the other about the series' very deep flaws. The other review, about how good they are can be found here.

I am, I realize, pissing into the wind here, but someone has to do it. Ferrante deserves much of the praise, but, like any serious author, she also deserves criticism, because these are some deeply, deeply flawed novels.

In Story of the Lost Child, Elena publishes an MS that she'd written some years before; Lila was unimpressed, so she'd just shoved it in a drawer. Now, her editor is very impressed, because she's given him something he didn't expect from her: pure, narrative pleasure. And it must be said that Ferrante is capable of delivering that, just as Elena was.

The problems start when you pay even a little attention to the narrative machinery groaning under the two thousand pages of the novel. Consider one of the major scenes in Story, when Lila and Elena are (again) arguing. This is a bad argument, a very bad one, and just as it reaches its climax, an earthquake strikes, destroying much of the city.

Really? Yes, really, Naples has been hit by earthquakes. But conjoining an earthquake with (another) personal disagreement between the protagonists of your novel is i) insensitive and disrespectful to the quake's victims, and ii) the kind of narrative move that Hollywood film makers dismiss as 'too obvious.'

This is one of the two major flaws in these novels: they are, far too often, ridiculously melodramatic. Leaving aside the earthquake argument, Story in particular devolves into bad country song territory, as everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong, and all the meta-narrative "unlike in fiction, in real life things just happen, you can't predict them, there isn't always a reason for bad things" stuff at the end, constantly torturing your characters for no reason isn't real life, it's bad art. There are only so many times someone can be interested to learn that a man is unfaithful, or a thug, or a woman is mentally unstable, or unfaithful. How many arguments can two friends have before an onlooker realizes that there isn't anything new in any given argument? Not 2000 pages worth of arguments, that's how many.

This repetitiveness also works at the sentence level, where Ferrante, for some reason, has chosen to make 19th century novels look like masterworks of concision. The arguments and incidents of unfaithfulness would be much more striking, I imagine, if they were narrated with a bit more panache; instead, we get the proverbial "I went out shopping, I bought the groceries, here's how I bought them, I had this conversation with the counter woman, we laughed, we talked about person y, I walked home, it was raining, but it was a pleasant day for all that, I opened the door, I put away the groceries, I made myself a cup of coffee, I went to the bathroom where I found my partner schtupping the cleaning woman, I ran out of the bathroom, I went to my friend's house, we had a bottle of wine, I cried because I was sad, then we made dinner, we had pasta and some bread, it was nice, I was sad so I cried, then I went for a walk..." ad infinitum.

In nuce: things could have been done more quickly, and more effectively, not just in the melodramatic moments, but throughout the novel. This constant attention to minor, irrelevant details can't but bring Knausgaard's Struggle to mind (I, too, grow weary of the comparison). Because nothing much happens in Kok's books, his shopping for and frying a piece of fish don't get in the way of anything. Of course, that nothing much happens really is a pretty major flaw in his books, and, like Ferrante, he often descends into melodrama.

The most interesting comparison, though, is between the prose styles (NB: I don't read Italian at all well, or Norwegian at all, so this means "styles as mediated by their respective translators", which might not be accurate). While both narrate far too much, it's somehow more off putting in Ferrante because Elena's style is so classically controlled. Knausgaard is free to wheel off into all kinds of baroque bathos, whereas the clear style of the Neapolitan Novels makes it very hard to tell the difference between, e.g., doing the shopping on the one hand, and finding your partner in flagrante with someone else, on the other. For any given 400 page volume, that's fine, I like clarity, and I can roll with it. For 2000 pages, however, Elena's style is like an extremely rational jackhammer, and I hope very much that Ferrante's example doesn't influence other writers.

The other reason to compare them is that they're both being feted as novel or interesting or sophisticated, when in fact they are none of those things. Instead, they are ambitious and entertaining. This is a conjunction almost unheard of in the English-speaking reading republic, and I suspect that critics have let their surprise get the better of them. Both projects are worth reading, both are enjoyable, both are ambitious--but what they're doing has certainly been done before, what they're doing will probably be considered interesting in a period-piece way, rather than in an artistic or intellectual way, and their apparent sophistication is the result of both of them disclaiming any wish to be sophisticated.

I'm glad to have both of them, and it is not their fault that the English speaking world doesn't have better critics.
Profile Image for Ola Al-Najres.
383 reviews1,104 followers
September 26, 2018
يا معشر القراء : أوجدوا لنا حلاً في تلك الروايات التي تسكننا و نسكنها ، ثم تغادرنا و لا نستطيع مغادرتها ..

فهاتان الصديقتان المذهلتان ، المنسجمتان على الرغم من أنّ إحداهما نقيض الأخرى ، المتباعدتان في كل شيء و المتكاتفان في الآن ذاته ، اللتان (و على مدى أربع روايات) تتبعت حياتيهما من حيٍّ إلى حيّ و من مدينة إلى أخرى ....
أقول هاتين الصديقتين قد سدتا باب الحكاية خلفي و تركتاني أتجمد اغتراباً في صقيع الواقع .

بلا شك هذا الجزء هو الأكثف و الأعنف و الأغزر عاطفةً و أحداثاً ، فقد كنت أقرأ و أشعر أني ألهث فكرياً في تتبع الأحداث ، الحدث المدوي تلو الآخر ..
فهنا عادت لينو ، و هنا ثار بركان الفيزوف ، و هنا خان نينو ، و هنا قُتل الأخوان سولارا ، و هنا خُطفت تينا ، و هنا انتحر فرانكو ، و هنا اختفت ليلّا ، و هنا و هنا و هنا ...
حد أنني كنت أتوقف كل حين و أردد : ما الذي تفعلينه بي يا فيرانتي ؟!

أثناء قراءتي لم أستطع أن أبعد عن ذهني هذا الاقتباس الذي أوردته فيرانتي في الجزء الثالث (الهاربون و الباقون) :
لسنا سوى سلسلة من ظلال تظهر في المشهد دوماً مشحونةً بالقدر ذاته من الحب و الحقد و الرغبات و أساليب العنف ..
و بالطبع ، لم أستطع منع نفسي من إجراء إسقاطات من أحداث الأجزاء الماضية على أحداث هذا الجزء ، لكن الروعة كل الروعة في هذه النهاية الغرائبية و التي كانت التحام بين دلالات الحاضر و ذكريات الماضي ..
فمن كان ليخمن أن "تينا و نو" دميتا الطفولة البعيدة و أولى ذكريات الجزء الأول سيرسمان ملامح الحكاية و خواتيم الأشياء ؟؟

في نظري ، تكمن قوة الرباعية في أسلوب فيرانتي الغامض و الذي لا أصفه سوى بالحماسة الهادئة و الأناقة الغوغائية ، و في قدرتها على إيلاجك الحكاية و جعلك تشعر أنك لا تلاحق الصديقتين من صفحات الكتب و حسب و إنما من أزقة الحي النابوليتاني نفسه .
Profile Image for Kamal.
320 reviews339 followers
April 28, 2019
نحن أسرى ماضينا

لا أًصدق أن هذا آخر ما سأقوله بحق لينا وليلا وأن الرحلة الرائعة بصحبة سيدة الجودريدز الأولى نيرة حسن والليدى رحمة والليدى إسراء انتهت بالفعل، أشعر الآن بشعور فقد رهيب أننى لن ألتقى مرة اخرى بلينا وليلا فى العاشر من الشهر القادم ولكن عزائى الوحيد أننا سنلتقى بإذن الله فى العاشر من يونيو مع سلسلة جديدة من اختيار سيدة الجودريدز الأولى.
إيلينا غريكو
قمة الخيبة والضياع أن تبنى بيدك مملكتك وتستكثرها - أو يستكثرها أحدهم عليك - على نفسك فتقرر أن تهدمها فوق رأسك مباشرة.
ابنة بواب البلدية الفتاة المُجتهدة التى حاولت أن تتفوق على زميلتها الأذكى بالمثابرة والعمل والاجتهاد فأكملت دراستها وتفوقت والتحقت بالجامعة وتخرجت منها واقتحمت مجال الكتابة وحققت به نجاحاً باهراً أنجبت من الأبناء ثلاثة بنات تفوقن واستكملن دراستهن، حتى الآن تبدو حياة لينا حلقة طويلة من الاجتهاد والجد المُكلل بالنجاح والتفوق.

لكن هل تخيلت يوماً أن تصنع كعكة جميلة بعد صبر وعناء وتكاليف مالية وفى لحظة تقرر أن تدهس هذه الكعكة تحت أقدامك أو تتركها عُرضة للذباب والحشرات، هذا ما فعلته لينا بحياتها تماماً حين قررت أن تخون بييترو آيروتا زوجها ووالد بنتيها وقررت أن تهجره فجأة بعد أن منحها وأسرته الحب والحنان واسم أسرة آيروتا العريق ونقلوها من مكانة إلى أخرى غير مبالين بماضيها وماضى أسرتها ومن أين انحدرت.
لينا ربما وقعت فريسة لسذاجتها تارة وفريسة لغيرتها الشديدة وحساسيتها المفرطة تجاه صديقتها ومحاولة إثبات أنها الأفضل تارات.
لهثت لينا فى تلك الأثناء خلف حب زائف ورجل خائن غير آبهة بتحذيرات صديقتها المُقربة وأصدقائها وأسرتها، فاستحالت حياتها فصلاً طويلاً من الكفاح من أجل العيش وكسب الرزق والأهم من أجل تربية بناتها الثلاث.

قد تختلف أرائنا عن لينا لكن تبقى فى نظرى نموذج للكفاح والمثابرة من جانب ونموذج للخيانة والسلبية على الجانب الآخر.
رافايلا شيرولو

ابنة الاسكافى، المتقدة ذكاءاً وفطنة ولكن فى الوقت ذاته تتقد خبثاً ولؤماً، تستطيع التحكم فيمن تشاء كيفما تشاء وقتما تشاء، لتطوع الجميع لأداء أدوار من صناعتها، فى حياة من صُنع خيالها، بالنسبة لليلا الكل عدم وهى فقط من تستحق أن تولى الاهتمام، عاشت ليلا فترة من حياتها تلعب دور الخائنة التى تجرى وراء شهواتها، منحت - بسذاجة غير معتادة منها – نينو كل شئ فسلبها هو كل شئ وهرب كطفل، نجحت فى أن تحطم حياتها بدءاً من قبولها بالزواج من ستيفانو هرباً من ابن سولارا، مروراً بنزواتها مع نينو، ونهاية بقبولها العمل فى مصنع برونو.
ولكن ارتدت حياة ليلا على عقبيها للاهتمام بشئوون أفراد أسرتها وأصدقائها وحتى لشئوون حييها وأهل مدينتها، تساعدهم وتمد لهم يد العون فى الأزمات والمحن، تُعطى هذا وتساعد ذلك وتقف بجانب الجميع، تحاول أن تُصلح البيئة التى تربت فيها وتجعلها أفضل لكن هيهات فلن يتركها المواطنون الشرفاء أبناء المُرابى سولارا فى حالها، فسيكيدون لها ويدبرون لها المصائب، فيسقط أبناء الحى بفضلهم فى شرك المخدرات إلى أن يلقى أخيها مصرعه، ويحولون أنطونيو إلى وحش ينتقم لهم ممن يقف فى طريق جمعهم للثروة، ليلا الثورية حاولت أن تُغير مجتمعها بيدها فى الخفاء، سدت عوزهم ووقفت بجانبهم وساعدتهم كى لا يحتاجوا إلى مخدرات وأموال ربا آل سولارا ولكن طُغيان أبناء سولارا دفعهم للانتقام من ليلا وسلب ابنتها منها.

نينو ساراتورى

كم أنت زرقاء اليمامة يا نيرة حسن؟
توقعتِ فى بداية قراءتنا للسلسلة أن يسطع نجم نينو كسياسى بارع وعضو أحد الأحزاب، وها هو نينو السياسى ذائع الصيت والبرلمانى القدير الذى يقتحم الحياة السياسية بقدرته الكبيرة على تغيير لونه مثل الحرباء تماماً، تسلق هذا وتملق هذا وأغرى تلك ووعد لينا بوعود الوفاء والالتزام ولكن هيهات أن يلتزم سياسى بوعد أو يثبت على مبدأ، نينو عبقرى الخداع والرقص على جميع الحبال وصولاً لغايته، استعمل لينا ومن قبلها إليونورا وغيرهم الكثير تخلى عن الجميع من أجل الطموح السياسى الذى لا يقف أمامه عائق فدائماً يجد الطرق الملتوية لفتح الأبواب المُغلقة، باختصار نينو هو النموذج الأمثل لجميع ال��ياسيين فى كل زمان ومكان.

النهاية غير التقليدية لرواية غير تقليدية لا إجابات واضحة لا نهايات مُحددة فقط نهاية مبتورة لحكاية مُكتملة، تُروى من طرف واحد، فهل علينا أن ننتظر أن تُكمل لنا ليلا بقية القصة أم نضع أنفسنا موضع ليلا فنرى الجزء الباقى من الحكاية أم نقرر أن نصنع النهاية بأنفسنا:
Profile Image for William2.
728 reviews2,821 followers
March 21, 2018
No meager summary I might give here can conjure the astonishing ferocity of these books—unabated over four volumes. If you read closely there are some aphorisms buried here. One that struck me particularly hard: “A woman without love for her origins is lost.” But there are other home truths as well: “Love and sex are unreasonable and brutal.” and “It was a good rule not to expect the ideal but to enjoy what is possible.” and “How many words remain unsayable even between a couple in love?” Most moving here for me have been the stories of Alfonso, a gay man; of Lenù’s mother, Immacolata; and Lennucia's difficulty with her first love, Nino.

We remember the terrible violence and sourness of Mrs. Greco, along with her hideous limp, from the first three novels in the series. In this fourth, she becomes gravely ill and in that illness all her previous pretensions to dominance over her first child, Lenù, our narrator, fall away. She begins to talk frankly to her daughter for the first time. Lenù, it turns out, is her favorite child, perhaps because she was born first. The others children, her mother admits to not wanting and never even loving. The reader is astonished that Ferrante can peel back the persona of this brutal, violent mother, and let us see what she has long been obsessed with. And this is the beautiful part. She and Lenù now draw close, for the first time in the lives of either. It's a stunning change in both the direction and velocity of the story and a tremendously exciting piece of writing.

Alfonso is also in danger, but in another way. As a gay man Alphonso has seduced the Cammorist, Michele Solara, one of the two Solara brothers. Alfonso has done this by passing in drag for Lila. Lila has rejected Michele who's gone quite made over her. So Lila has cruelly sets Alfonso up with Michele. If Michele can’t have Lila, he can at least have this remarkable lookalike who evens fits into Lila's dresses. The cruelty is multidimensional. It’s cruel on Lila’s part to use Alfonso in a way that tortures Michele and has his brother, Marcello, in a near murderous rage. Alfonso’s stuck, loving Michele, even fucking him, for all the wrong reasons. He’s putting himself at terrible risk, but then that’s part of the thrill.

Then there’s Nino. One of the tetralogy’s most persistent themes is first love. First love is, often though not always, about learning that you can’t have who you want, or that there are sudden surprising limitations on who you thought the wonderful love object was. I've just finished Andre Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name which deals with this theme in a manner both brilliant and eviscerating. Nino Sarratore is loved by Lennucia from early grade school days. When she becomes a feted author, Nino—after having an affair with Lina years before that was absolutely gut wrenching for Lenù—miraculously shows up. She leaves her husband for him. At the same time he won’t leave his wife for her because she’s got money, being the daughter of an industrialist. So after much agony Lenù resolves to share Nino. Add to that the fact that Nino’s father, whom he hates, has instilled in his son a model of the philanderer that not even Nino realizes he fervently emulates to a fair-thee-well. Women, Lenù finally realizes, after having his child, are Nino’s giddy enablers. They swoon over him. Always have. The realization equals heartbreak for our heroine but also much personal growth. Funny, how we all have to make our own mistakes when it comes to love.

The aspect most striking in this fourth volume—although Ferrante's done it throughout the series— is her ability to animate the cognitive split in her characters, their dualism or knack for self contradiction. That’s what makes them so alive! They are each living minds assessing the daily the clashing inputs, which often cloud their wants and compromise their actions. This novel like the others is angst-ridden. There’s a tremendous agitation. In that sense it’s consistent with the other three volumes. The book at times almost trembled from my grip, not from boredom, but because of the intensity of the drama. I could hardly bear to read what’s coming next. I have to think more about this. For my reaction points to something unique in this fourth and final volume. Ciao.
Profile Image for Doug Bradshaw.
257 reviews218 followers
January 13, 2016
I want to thank Elena Ferrante aka Lenu, for writing such an excellent and complete story of the lives of herself and her soulmate-crazy and brilliant best friend, Lila. The four books are chronological and start when the two girls are about 8 years old and continue into their sixties. I don't want to tell the story here but here are some of my observations about reading such a poignant, emotionally honest and complete story:

1. Life is hard and then you die. There is nothing easy about relationships, marriages, having and raising families, living on tight budgets, deciding what career path to take, dealing with family members on drugs, raising kids who are young and becoming sexual, and in this particular environment in Naples, Italy in the 50's, friends and families with a lot of influence who are basically mobsters. Elena takes us through all of these type of issues along with her high strung, highly opinionated and beautiful friend, Lila, who is the opposite of Lenu, never a compromiser, always aggressive and pushy, highly opinionated and willing to put her life at stake to stand up for herself and Lenu. Some of the situations are hilarious and amazing, others are depressing and life threatening.

2. I think the author has been willing to admit many personal thoughts and reactions to various ultra personal situations that are eye openers as to how relationships actually work. The submissive girl can so easily yield to the thoughts and opinions of the dominate girl, that her whole life is changed not necessarily for the better. The one with low self esteem or less confidence can become overly ready to do almost anything for love or approval. It's so true and yet so painful to watch. And yet the friendship endures and each is successful in working their way through a world, especially in this era, so dominated by the desires and customs of parents and the men that they end up having relationships with.

3. There is interesting history of the politics of Italy of the era, facists, communists, the fight for labor unions and equality, the opinions of the liberal professors in the universities of the era, the disdain each group has for the other and the two girls, each in totally different settings, becoming part of this whole politically morphing time. Some of each of their friends become very involved in the mess, which includes murder, friends dragged off into the chaos in real danger.

4. There is a lot of realistic and sometimes difficult to handle marriage and relationship situations, adultery, abandonment, way too much forgiveness of one particular womanizing fellow who affects the life of each of the girls who are becoming women. However, it is written in a way that almost makes some of their stupid and immature decisions totally understandable, while each of them try to help the other get through horrible and sometimes almost funny and pathetic situations occur. There is one sexual description of what one of the girls walks in on that nailed me, so real and yet a ridiculous eye opener, almost as if I had to see it to understand what a dope this guy really was. This was another example of how Elena was able to make us walk in her shoes. I'm guessing she had to be chuckling as she finished writing this particular scene, maybe too much for some readers.

5. And then there is the never ending worry and difficult time raising the 5 kids that the two of them had, both stepping in to help the other from time to time. Not wanting to tell the story, there is an event involving one of the kids that almost devastates one of the mothers.

In the end, we have watched in great detail the full lives of two ordinary and yet both extraordinary women, and I will miss them both, always hoping that maybe, a fifth book will show up.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,142 reviews486 followers
October 4, 2015
After reading all four books in the series, I am still unsure whether this is a fictional memoir, or a story based on the truth. It probably is a little of both. There is a showcase full of people involved: the Grecos, Cerullos, Carraccis, Pelusos, Sarratores , and the path of tragedy and heartbreak is as difficult as it can get for all of them, no matter how well veneered their lives seemed to be.

Lila and Elena completed their journey in this final book in the series. The first book started out with Lila disappearing. Elena wrote down their story to explain Lila's disappearance, on the one hand, but on the other hand also figure out where she could have gone.

In this book they both return to their childhood neighborhood through circumstances, and remain the two friends in a love-hate relationship. At one point the one loves the other's guts, and in the blink of an eye it changes to hate (annoyance) In the end nobody knows who came out the strongest. That's the mystery in this saga. The ending,when a package is delivered, explained it all. What a powerful ending for a book!

Two strong young girls defied the rules of their neighborhood: the chauvinism, cruelty, violence and poverty. They went against the grain. This element in the book is the mainstay, the foundation, of everything that happened to them.

Both of them became successful women in their own rights. Both were married in the Catholic church but lived, and had children, with other men, outside of marriage in longterm relationships. There was no conformity as far as these two young ladies were concerned. They had the houses and the kids, but refused the enslavement, symbolized by the wedding ring.
“Aunt Lina has a husband just as you do, and that husband is Rino’s father, his name is Stefano Carracci. Then she has Enzo, Enzo Scanno, who sleeps with her. And the exact same thing happens with you: you have Papa, whose name is Airota, but you sleep with Nino, whose name is Sarratore.” I smiled to reassure her. “How did you ever learn all those surnames?” “Aunt Lina talked to us about it, she said that they’re stupid. Rino came out of her stomach, he lives with her, but he’s called Carracci like his father. We came out of your stomach, we live much more with you than with Papa, but we’re called Airota.”
Elena became a successful writer and Lila took on, and won, the IT world. True to her curious intelligence, she conquered every challenge she ever set for herself. The one thing Lila never did though, was write a book, in competition with Elena. Yet, her story was the one being told in the end ...

So much detail, so much love and pathos. Even the bad guys knew how to protect their hearts against the cruelty of poverty. Nothing about their lives were beautiful. It was all about survival of the fittest. Yet, the undercurrent that glued them all together was love, friendship and loyalty. They were not only loyal to each other, they were also loyal to their city Naples, even though it was the place they wanted to escape from with all their might.

Elena summarizes the story herself very well:
"Today, as I write, I’m embarrassed at the way fortune continued to favor me. The book immediately aroused interest. Some were thrilled by the pleasure of reading it. Some praised the skill with which the protagonist was developed. Some talked about a brutal realism, some extolled my baroque imagination, some admired a female narrative that was gentle and embracing. In other words there were many positive judgments, but often in sharp contrast to one another, as if the reviewers hadn’t read the book that was in the bookstores but, rather, each had evoked a fantasy book fabricated from his own biases. On one thing, after the article in Panorama, they all agreed: the novel was absolutely different from the usual kind of writing about Naples."
It was difficult to come back into the story after waiting so many months for the forth book to surface. There were too many characters to be remembered and too many events that shaped the story. However, the story slowly filtered back into the memory.

Reading this last book was like looking at the monitor in ICU. For several days it fluctuated enormously as the daily events in their lives ran up and down between good and bad, between happy and tragic, while the pendulum of time was bringing changes to all of them. Some made the transition effortlessly, and others simply refused to embrace it without excruciating pain.. However, change did come, for all of them.

In the end, when everything is said and done, the beeper on the monitor flat-lined for Elena and Lila's story. It was inevitable. Closing the book was a sad experience. It felt like losing my family all over again.

Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
June 21, 2017
No jornal Público há um texto intitulado O Pêndulo Ferrante no qual várias pessoas falam sobre A Amiga Genial. Uns dizem bem, outros dizem mal. É normal...
Do longo artigo retirei a penúltima frase, de António Lobo Antunes: ("...enquanto lia pedaços de página, sem ordem, para trás e para a frente):
- Não é má. Estava agora a ver. Não é má, é o que posso dizer.
Se um homem (genial), que diz, quase sempre, mal dos outros escritores, afirma que Ferrante não é má, poderemos deduzir que é muito boa? Eu digo: Sim!

Li compulsiva e obsessivamente as cerca de mil e quinhentas páginas dos quatro volumes das Novelas Napolitanas. E leria muitas mais...
O estilo de prosa não é inovador, nem com fraseado poético ou filosófico. Mas tem VIDA!

A narradora, Lenù, após o desaparecimento da sua amiga Lila, decide escrever a história das suas vidas desde a infância até à velhice.
Nasceram num bairro pobre de Nápoles; uma estuda, torna-se uma escritora famosa e conhece o mundo; a outra casa-se muito jovem e nunca sai de Nápoles. A sua amizade não é perfeita, como nada o é. Zangam-se, invejam-se, são cruéis. Mas amam-se e não vivem uma sem a outra.
A amizade entre as duas é o fio condutor de dezenas de outras histórias e relacionamentos entre pais, filhos, irmãos, casais, amantes; ligados pelo amor, a paixão, o ódio, a traição, o ciúme e tudo de que é feita a vida...

1. Quem é A Amiga Genial? Lila ou Lenù? Eu escolhi a "minha" nas primeiras páginas e não me deixo convencer por Ferrante quando me diz que é a outra...
2. Quem é Elena Ferrante? Lila ou Lenù? Eu tenho uma ideia (mas deve ser de jerico).
"Ao contrário do que acontece nas histórias, a vida real, quando é passado, não se debruça sobre a claridade mas sim sobre a obscuridade."
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,010 reviews868 followers
August 5, 2017
I am saying a very sad farewell to the Neapolitan Novels. To say that Lenu and Lila's story gripped me it would an understatement. I was consumed by these books. I have never read anything like this before. It's hard to put into words what I felt when listening to these books. The thing is these novels are not perfect. But all the good, scratch that, all the great things far outweigh their imperfections, uncannily, making the novels feel more authentic, more impactful.

These books will have a special place in my heart.

Profile Image for Susana.
468 reviews140 followers
January 5, 2017
(review in English below)

Um final brilhante para esta história! Em retrospectiva, acho que a tetralogia, no seu todo, merece bem as cinco estrelas!

Parece-me impossível que esta narrativa (refiro-me aos 4 volumes d' A Amiga Genial) não tenha uma parte autobiográfica substancial. Não vislumbro outra forma de produzir esta escrita que se nos impõe sem pedir licença, que se nos mete pelos olhos e pelo cérebro adentro sem querer saber se estamos a gostar da história, das personagens, da linguagem...

Só sabemos que queremos ler mais e mais, e mais depressa para saber o que vai Lila dizer ou fazer a seguir, mas ao mesmo tempo não tão depressa que nos possa escapar alguma palavra, pois todas são preciosas.

Ferrante conseguiu "escravizar-me" durante as últimas semanas e, por estranho que pareça, eu gostei de ser escravizada!

Lá vou ter de comprar os outros livros desta autora, e vou ter de me refrear para não ficar intoxicada pela sua escrita, corro o risco de se acabar a "droga" e depois ter uma recuperação difícil!...

A brilliant ending for this story! In retrospective, I think this tetralogy as a whole is well deserving of the full five stars!

For me, it seems impossible that this narrative (I'm talking about all 4 volumes of The Neapolitan Novels) doesn't have a substantial autobiographical quality. I can't fathom any other way to produce this kind of writing, which imposes itself on you without asking for permission, gushing into your eyes and brain not caring if you like the story, the characters, the language...

You only know that you want to read on an on, and faster, to know what is Lila going to say or do next, but at the same time not so fast that you might miss a single word, as they're all precious.

Ferrante managed to enslave me for the last few weeks and, odd as it may seem, I liked being enslaved!

So now I'll have to buy the other books by this author and I'll have to refrain so I don't get intoxicated with her writing, there's the risk of running out of this dope and facing a hard rehab!
Profile Image for Carmo.
629 reviews459 followers
December 28, 2016
"Só nos romances feios é que as pessoas pensam sempre a coisa certa, dizem sempre a coisa certa, cada efeito tem a sua causa, há os simpáticos e os antipáticos, os bons e os maus, e no fim tudo te consola."

Não, não é um romance feio; é um livro de uma honestidade cruel, é um livro que nos fala de uma amizade magnífica e tenebrosa, de rivalidade e competição, de gente pobre, gente rica, gente corrupta, gente corajosa, de uma cidade onde reina a miséria física e moral, de um país a braços com uma crise política que gerou ondas de violência e morte.
Ao longo de mil e tal páginas de leitura que tanto agonia como vicia, Elena Ferrante vai desconstruindo a imagem romanceada da amizade perfeita, da maternidade perfeita, do amor e das relações idílicas, dos meandros do sucesso e da riqueza.
É o mundo real em toda a sua imperfeição que nos mostra.
Um mundo de maus tratos, que começa na família, entre casais, entre pais e filhos, e segue vida fora repetido em cada geração, não como algo ocasional mas como um facto quotidiano normal e aceitável. A imagem da família tão presente na cultura Italiana; o núcleo que se une no crime, na posse, no controlo da vida de cada membro. A família presente e exigente até ao fim como uma benção ou um castigo.
Um mundo de relações fincadas na culpa e no ressentimento, de tentativas de valorização pessoal e afirmação, de projeção no outro, de fugas e regressos, vitórias, derrotas, dor e arrependimento. O mundo de qualquer um de nós.
Cabe tudo nesta obra, muita dor e pouca glória, chegamos ao fim e não há finais felizes mas finais possíveis, há pontas soltas e perguntas sem resposta.

Não, não é um romance feio, é um romance magnífico!
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