Julie Christine's Reviews > The Story of the Lost Child

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
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it was amazing
bookshelves: best-of-2015, italy-theme-setting, read-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.
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Reading Progress

August 9, 2015 – Shelved
August 9, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 1, 2015 – Started Reading
September 2, 2015 –
page 102
21.25% ""...I withered painfully, the free and educated woman lost her petals, separated from the woman-mother, and the woman-mother was disconnected from the woman-lover, and the woman-lover from the furious whore, and we all seemed on the point of flying off in different directions.""
September 2, 2015 –
page 150
31.25% "From Via Tasso the old neighborhood was a dim, distant rockpile, indistinguishable urban debris at the foot of Vesuvius. I wanted it to stay that way: I was another person now, I would make sure that it did not recapture me."
September 3, 2015 –
page 204
42.5% "'You're kind, Lenù, you've always had a lot of patience. So please, if I insult you, if I say ugly things to you, stop up your ears, I don't want to do it and yet I do. Please, please don't leave me, or I'll fall in.""
September 4, 2015 –
page 305
63.54% "'The man for whom I left Pietro, I thought, is what he is because his encounter with Lila reshaped him that way.""
September 5, 2015 – Shelved as: best-of-2015
September 5, 2015 – Shelved as: italy-theme-setting
September 5, 2015 – Shelved as: read-2015
September 5, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-41 of 41 (41 new)

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Julie Christine My copy is on order!


Julie Christine Picked up my copy today!


Nicole OMG, I had no idea this was out already!!!!


Julie Christine Utterly bereft. I have no idea what to do now. Start over with #1, so I'm not left alone, without Lila and Elena. Oh.


message 5: by Bill (new)

Bill You know I'll be humming The End all day long! Oh I love The Doors :)


message 6: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne Another stellar review, Julie!!


Suzy I know your review is going to be illuminating, but 'm skipping right past it, Julie, until my book comes and I've read it. Should be in the mail today! I know it will be 5 stars from me too.


Julie Christine Bill wrote: "You know I'll be humming The End all day long! Oh I love The Doors :)"
Hah, Bill! Glad to have given you an earworm you loved, rather than one that makes you cringe!!


Julie Christine Dianne wrote: "Another stellar review, Julie!!" Thank you, Dianne!


Julie Christine Suzy wrote: "I know your review is going to be illuminating, but 'm skipping right past it, Julie, until my book comes and I've read it. Should be in the mail today! I know it will be 5 stars from me too." I do exactly the same thing- I wait until AFTER to dive into everyone's reviews. Okay, sometimes I take a sneak peek. Usually it's a book I'm struggling with and I need either commiseration or a clue to what I may be missing :)


Julie Christine David wrote: "Julie...Beautiful review. My copy of "The Story of the Lost Child" is in transit. I can't wait to start the final leg of Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels."
David, thank you so much. And I can't wait for your thoughts!


message 12: by Iris P (new)

Iris P Julie, your review was delightful and illuminating, especially for those of us that haven't read Elena Ferrante yet.

This week I also listened to author and book critic Maureen Corrigan singing the praises of Elena Ferrante's novels and in particular, of this last and final installment to the Neapolitan series.

Learned a little bit about the author's mysterious identity and the speculation surrounding her, him?

Both of your reviews have completely convinced me that I must make time to start reading these books pronto!

Corrigan made a point that one must not "cheat" and start the series from the beginning in order to enjoy the whole experience. I am very much looking forward to it...


Julie Christine Iris wrote: "Julie, your review was delightful and illuminating, especially for those of us that haven't read Elena Ferrante yet.

This week I also listened to author and book critic [author:Maur..."


YAY!! I know they aren't for everyone-she has a distinct style-but I so hope you love them, too!

Yes, she is quite the enigma (I have no doubt Ferrante is a woman, but perhaps someday we'll know for certain!).

Oh no- there's no possible way to read these than from the start. These aren't four distinct novels or even a series: the Neapolitan Novels collection really is one novel, split into four parts. I've reviewed all four, but if spoilers frustrate you, I'd avoid reading any reviews! It's amazing how passionate readers are about these books. I love it-Ferrante has awakened something in all of us.


Karen I will read all of your review when I finally get my hands on this last book .., can't wait...


Julie Christine Karen wrote: "I will read all of your review when I finally get my hands on this last book .., can't wait..." :) Can't wait to see what you think of the ending of the saga, Karen.


message 16: by Suzanne (new) - added it

Suzanne Just finished. Didn't want it to end. And what happened to poor Tina? I think Nino's wife took her - because of the newspaper mistake and she knew he was going there that day. But who knows, I guess we are left with the idea that her disappearance is a metaphor as you said for all the lost children in their lives.


Julie Christine Suzanne wrote: "Just finished. Didn't want it to end. And what happened to poor Tina? I think Nino's wife took her - because of the newspaper mistake and she knew he was going there that day. But who knows, I gues..."

Oh, thank you for the comment, Suzanne. Reading it made me feel again the bittersweet of coming to the end of this extraordinary story, with so much left unknown. What a saga!


Josanne Great review Julie.


Josanne Great review Julie.


Julie Christine Josanne wrote: "Great review Julie."
Thank you, Josanne!


Kristygardiner A perfect review of the Neapolitan novels. I have found it difficult to explain to people why the books are so extraordinary, but you have nailed it and I love the lyrics! I am in awe of Elena Ferrante.


Julie Christine Kristygardiner wrote: "A perfect review of the Neapolitan novels. I have found it difficult to explain to people why the books are so extraordinary, but you have nailed it and I love the lyrics! I am in awe of Elena Ferr..."

What a wonderful comment, Kristy! Thank you. And yes, I'm gobsmacked by Ferrante!


Renata Julie your review captured me as soon I recognized the lyrics to the Doors song. Well done ! But equally powerful are the Paul Simon lyrics and I know that song in my heart...
What a magnificent review! I'm about two thirds through Lost Child (listening on audio) stopped so often while listening during my walk to narrate notes on my thinking that it was rather fruitless! So, yes, I agree " In eras past, Eliot, Mann, Tolstoy, Woolf, Hardy demanded the same and the rewards of Ferrante are as great."
I rarely read realistic fiction and friendship stories - most are so trite and r banal - too ordinary, I guess. But this series is something else entirely. When I read it I think of our violent inner cities and their conflicts, I think of myself as a girl, as a student, as a person growing in political and social awareness, and that is only the beginning of the flood of thoughts.
I loved your observation of her title reflecting many lost children - often just heartbreaking to think of Alphonso and Antonio and Carmella and the others. Thanks for such a magnificently poetic and heart wrenching review.


Julie Christine Renata wrote: "Julie your review captured me as soon I recognized the lyrics to the Doors song. Well done ! But equally powerful are the Paul Simon lyrics and I know that song in my heart...
What a magnificent r..."


What a beautiful comment, Renata. I'm so glad you are finding resonance and meaning in this series. It's something extraordinary.

So wonderful to hear from you! xoxo Julie


Renata Thank you! But you are the one who is extraordinary, as a writer and a person of such keen depth of feeling and insight.


Joanne Streit Thank you Julie for articulating the engulfing, maddening, challenging experience of reading this epic creation! I was dumbstruck


message 27: by Lara (new) - added it

Lara Holy moly great review


Eleanor Great review


Sarah Brilliant!


Julie Christine Joanne wrote: "Thank you Julie for articulating the engulfing, maddening, challenging experience of reading this epic creation! I was dumbstruck"

Thank you, Joanne! "Engulfing, maddening, challenging, dumbstruck..." YES. All of this, yes.


Julie Christine Lara wrote: "Holy moly great review"

Lara, thank you!


Julie Christine Sarah wrote: "Brilliant!"

Thank you so much, Sarah!


Julie Christine Eleanor wrote: "Great review"

Cheers, Eleanor-thank you!


Francesca Marciano Oh Julie, reaching the end of the saga proves so difficult. It truly is The Day of Abandonment. One feels utterly bereft and disoriented. Wonderful review, as always.


Julie Christine Francesca wrote: "Oh Julie, reaching the end of the saga proves so difficult. It truly is The Day of Abandonment. One feels utterly bereft and disoriented. Wonderful review, as always."

Yes. Oh, so much yes, Francesca. What a journey it was. And thank you.


Victoria Love your review. I have struggled to define what is so compelling about these novels . The words that keep on resonating in my head are , vid , raw and almost so honest as to be painful. I haven’t yet read the last installment of this quartet simply to slow myself down
Having consumed the last 3 books in a week .
I have a conviction that Nino is bad bad news and I’m almost afraid to follow Elena Greco down this last rabbit hole . And yet I can’t wait to pick the story up again....


Julie Christine Victoria wrote: "Love your review. I have struggled to define what is so compelling about these novels . The words that keep on resonating in my head are , vid , raw and almost so honest as to be painful. I haven’t..." Victoria, thank you. I envy you the amazing journey you've been on- I'd love to fall that hard again- perhaps in a few years I can reread the series and it will be like I'm reading them again for the first time!

Savor every word :-)


Janice Marvelous review Julie. I’ve spent most of the month reading these four books. They moved me too as reading Tolstoy or Hardy have before. The difference for me is they take place in my own time and I’ve visited in these cities over the years and can relate to them in the times of Ferrantes’ stories.


Julie Christine Janice wrote: "Marvelous review Julie. I’ve spent most of the month reading these four books. They moved me too as reading Tolstoy or Hardy have before. The difference for me is they take place in my own time and..."
Thank you for the lovely comment, Janice. What an experience to have read these one after another! I feel the same- I've spent a bit of time in these cities, as well, and feel the sense of place that carry so much weight in Ferrante's writing.

Thank you for becoming a GR friend!


Lorna Julie, a beautiful review of the final book in the Neapolitan series and analysis of these magnificent books that so many of us have loved. I may have to start the series again soon, hopefully with another trip to Italy!


Julie Christine Lorna wrote: "Julie, a beautiful review of the final book in the Neapolitan series and analysis of these magnificent books that so many of us have loved. I may have to start the series again soon, hopefully with..."

I hope that for you, Lorna- a trip to Italy sounds divine. As does reread of these books. Thank you!


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