Wednesday, May 04, 2016

First Wedneday Book Review, May 3, 2016


This is the first of the four books that make up what is called the Neapolitan series from Elena Ferrante. Whose identity has been kept a secret. Not sure why unless these books are too autobiographical to expose the author.
The first book details the early years of two good friends, Elena and Lila. They live in a poor section of Naples and the book examines quite a large cast of characters, even including a list of the families in the front of the book.
Elena and Lila are extremely competitive, especially when it comes to school. Both strive to earn top grades in classes like Latin, Greek, Italian. They study and read incessantly at an age when other girls thoughts have turned to boys. They get little encouragement from their families who see schoolwork as postponement of wage earning.  Their teaches though speak up for them.
Elena is able to persist whereas Lila, for various reasons, goes to work for her father, a shoemaker.
By the end of this first volume, their paths have widely diverged. Book 2 awaits.
We read this in my very large book group, which is about 35% men 65% women, The men liked this book a lot more than the woman, saying it gave them insight into the path to womanhood for girls. They called it brilliant, fascinating, and saw reflections of their own neighborhoods.
The women seemed to find it soap operatic. I think they missed the mark entirely. This is a very fine book. I vote with the men.

For other reviews, see Barrie Summy, right here.

16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this, Patti. I keep hearing rave reviews of the books. And, of course, there's all the speculation over the author's real identity, too.

George said...

My daughter Katie has read these books. She loved them.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am trying to decide whether to go on to Book Two or risk forgetting the events of Book One.

Sarah Laurence said...

I bought this at a airport bookstore but wasn't hooked enough to keep reading. Your review makes me think of revisiting it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I suffered that initially too. What really helped me was the book group discussion where all sorts of issues I had skimmed by were brought up as relevant.

Barrie said...

I read this book and really enjoyed it. I say "read" but I actually listened to it. Thanks for reviewing!

Stacy said...

I want to read these books. It's silly, but I've hesitated to actually do so because I hate the covers. I'm shallow and judge books by their covers and wines by their labels.

pattinase (abbott) said...

They are not at all romances it that's what you fear. Far from it.

Lyndi Lamont said...

Glad you liked the book, Patti, and how interesting about how the men and women in your group reacted so differently to it.

Cloudbuster said...

I've heard some really great things about these books, but like Stacy have been put off by the covers. It's interesting how powerful the influence of a good (or bad) cover can be. Thanks for the great review.

Richard Robinson said...

Fascinating. I'm not familiar with the books but find your review intriguing. The stats you give are most interesting. I wonder that the women went to soap opera as a descriptive for their opinion.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was surprised too. And when they complained about too much detail about a girl coming of age, I asked them well what about in the DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Did you mind it there? Or in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN.

Didn't get it at all.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

When I read the long piece about it (in the Times?) it sounded interesting, but I'm still not sure if it's for me.

Richard Robinson said...

it surely must be popular, there are hundreds of holds on it at the library.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I finally gave up and bought the paperback. It is very popular with book groups. That's where the money is now.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Keep hearing good things about these - I'll have o see about getting it in Italian though!