Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Books I've Loved: Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series
I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was reading this series. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but it's taken until now for me to actually sit down and think about writing about them.
I loved these books. At the center of them is a friendship between two women. Elena and Lila grow up together in a poor Naples suburb. Both are bright and do well at the local school. But at the end of primary school their paths diverge, Elena going on to the next level of education while Lila remains in the neighborhood.
These two remain friends for life, their paths separate, but always crossing and diverging. Elena continues with her education while Lila marries young.
The book follows their lives through marriages, separations, successes, failures, lovers, children and death. The cast of childhood friends they grew up with weaves in and out of their own stories, as do the stories of their families who still live the old ways and fail to understand the changing world around them.
The friendship between Elena and Lila is fascinating because it's often toxic. Lila is clever, but doesn't always use her cleverness for good. Elena loves Lila and has always admired her, often to her own detriment. Yet every time she tries to separate her life from her friend's, Lila finds some way to draw her back in.
The men in both women's lives are often weak or violent or just plain bad. So that they rely so heavily on each other is no surprise.
The series plays out like a long, involved soap opera, but one in which the characters are so compelling and ever-changing, you can't look away. From book to book my opinion of certain characters shifted and changed. I liked this guy one minute, hated him the next.
I really couldn't recommend these books more highly. They're a quick read, but make sure you always have the next one in the series close to hand, because you won't want to wait to find out what happens next.