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.