Archive | Novel Comments RSS feed for this section

Novel Comments

20 Aug

Elena Ferrante’s second novel in her Neapolitan quartet, The Story of a New Name(2012), recounts a rather distant but still connected relationship between two best girlfriends as they pass from their late teens into their mid twenties. The distance comes primarily from the complications that arise as they become intensely involved with men and their competition for one in particular. However there is also their choice of difference paths- One goes into a tumultuous and destructive marriage, and the other, the voice of the writer, struggles to establish one of education and creativity in spite of their working class backgrounds. The writer, Elena, uses men to further her more urbane, intellectual ambitions; the other, Lila, uses men to express her emotional instability. I am ready to read the third novel.

Novel Comments

4 Jun

I have finished the first novel, My Brilliant Friend (2012), of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels. It depicts the friendship between two extraordinarily talented, intelligent girls from ages 6 to 16 as they grow up in a working class Italian neighborhood. In Ferrante’s sharp, insightful prose the depth and intensity of their relationship is revealed in its full complexity as they repeatedly join together and pull apart in their imitations, envies, and love of each other. Whether they collaborate or compete, no matter what is going on, each is always aware of the other.

Novel Comments

30 Apr

The Days of Abandonment by the Italian writer Elena Ferrante (2002) is a tour de force. It is not a read for the fainthearted in its first-person depiction of the despair of a woman whose husband unexpectedly leaves her for another, much younger woman. The novel begins: “One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.” After assuming blame, he promptly left.

His abandonment is quickly followed by the fragmentation of her sense of self, her relationships with others, including her children, and even objects as they become less solid and less manipulable by her. Ferrante’s detailed description of the woman’s fragmentation is so visceral and painful that I found it difficult to read. Sometimes I was tempted to abandon the book; however, each time I was drawn back into its intensity, into, in the author’s words, the “excessive reaction that pierced the surface of things.”

In the end, after falling into “the holes in the net of events,” the character regains some sense of herself, and the fragmentation lessens, but, to use a Ferrante metaphor of the net. she is not able to reestablish a tight, close weave in the net that supports her.