A note on Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet

by Chris Bertram on January 18, 2016

I finished Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet yesterday. I know there’s been a lot of hype about these novels, but it is entirely justified. Actually, I write “these novels” but this is actually just one long novel, distributed across four printed volumes. For those who don’t know, it concerns the relationship between two women, Elena (or Lenu or Lenuccia) – the narrator – and Lila (or Lina) from childhood to early old age, and their mutual relationship to “the neighbourhood”, a working-class district of Naples and the many other families who live there. It is a difficult friendship, infected with rivalry, jealousy and resentment from the start. Lila is both intelligent and impulsive, spiky and demanding, capable of both extraordinary determination and of self-neglect and remains forever tied to the district; Lenu eventually enjoys worldly success and social evelation, but, in her own mind, is forever in the shadow of her “brilliant friend”.
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