The Neapolitan Novels – Book #2
My first thoughts after finishing this were:
- I need to get hold of the next book ASAP.
- I need to read about more incredible women. Real women. Fleshed out. Loving, hateful, selfish, ambitious, strong, weak, insecure. Real. Just like Elena Ferrante’s women.
Reading this novel, I felt a flurry of emotions – furious, sad, victorious, insecure. All of these being the emotions felt by the protagonists, friends and rivals, Elena and Lila, whose journey through the series mirrors what it means to be human. This was an incredibly emotional reading experience because it opened up all those memories and feelings that I had felt were best left in the past. As if triggering off a hidden part of me. The emotional turmoil, however, didn’t stop me from raging through the novel.
(Picture: Naples, which is almost a character in the series)
Something’s that’s common between most of my favorite novels are the universality of themes. On one hand, this captures all the passions of being a young girl at the cusp of life – all the fieriness, the rages, the turmoil – along with the passions of intense friendships with the jealousies as well as the love. It’s as if Elena Ferrante has made notes on your life and your friendships. I kept on thinking – ‘How does she know this? That’s does happen, that’s so true!’
At the same time, it captures the impact of the socio-cultural context on the psyche. It asks the question: No matter how far you run, can you ever truly escape your roots? And should you try to escape at all? This portrays what it means to be a young woman growing up in the midst of poverty and patriarchy, with violence in every corner.
We see Elena and Lila battle the circumstances they grow up in. Elena does this by searching for an identity beyond the resounding poverty of her family and neighbourhod, by aspiring and killing herself working to ‘make it’ into a more cultured/educated way of being that she sees as superior. Lila does this by marrying Stefano, a part of the nouveau riche, who grew up in the same neighborhood. To do that, she kills her imagination, her passion for learning, her natural genius to play the wife, yet domesticity cannot suppress her unmistakable individuality. Both Elena and Lila are thwarted as their dreams about their future become illusions. Yet, neither seems to stop the battle.
These are not just novels to me. To be read and forgotten. These are almost my guidebooks, a guide to real life and adulthood, and how to deal with them.