The Story of a New Name: Elena Ferrante

★★★★ ½

The Neapolitan Novels: Book II

The first installment of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels moved me deeply and there was no doubt I’d continue with the series. For various reasons this week has been challenging and so yesterday afternoon, on a whim, I bought the second book and have spent a few hours here and there absorbed afresh in Ferrante’s compelling world, by turns painfully familiar and shockingly alien. As in the first novel, the characters have a presence and reality which means one can’t comfortably dismiss them as fictional. Once again, this book has the charge of thinly fictionalised autobiography: nostalgic, fearless and merciless, a forensic dissection of the anatomy of friendship.

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My Brilliant Friend: Elena Ferrante

★★★★

About a month ago, several people recommended that I should read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Then my local bookshop devoted a window display to her, so it seemed a good time to plunge in. The novels follow the friendship between two women, the narrator Elena and Raffaella, whom Elena calls Lila. Throughout the course of the series I imagine we’ll cover most of the second half of the 20th century, but this first book sets the scene with the story of their childhood and adolescence in a modest, run-down suburb of Naples.

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