This book has received a handful of criticisms, but even more, lots of positive acclaims. Though the author, Elena Ferrante remains unknown to her body of growing readers, her style of writing is enigmatic, it sings, it flows, well so like a stream. Notice the seamlessness, the words interwoven, forming a smooth surface, mat-like, that stretches across miles and miles of road covered with tar.
Elena Ferrante paints with words, the poverty and violence and strife that enmeshed the life of the inhabitants of a small neighborhood in Naples, Italy.
Two brilliant friends, Lila and Lenu the protagonists in the first of the Neapolitan novels, happen to be born in a time in Italy when the girl child seems only made for marriage and child birth and everything lowly.
Lila eventually gave up her dream to study after a bitter battle that saw her flung out of the window, by her father, for whom education of the girl child was more or less a waste of resources. She tries to escape a marriage with Marcello, one of the sons of Silvio Solara, a loan shark, who uses his ill-gotten wealth to oppress and humiliate the inhabitants of that small neighbourhood. The Solara’s are feared and hated and respected. Lila in her bid to run away from the impending doom, seeks refuge in the arms of the courteous son of Don Achille Caracci, Stefano. Only to find out days to their wedding, that her beloved was a hypocrite, who was having a romance with the Solara’s. She feels betrayed and humiliated, as she finds on the feet of the man whose overtures she rejected, the first of the Cerullo shoes she designed.
Lenu who has grown so fond of her friend, so much so, she idolizes her, in a neighbourhood with no one to look up to, not even ones parent, is filled with riot of emotions. She compares and contrast herself with her friend, whom she has always known was better in every way possible. If Lila is having an affair, she feels ripe for one too. If Lila is getting married, she feels ripe for marriage too. Lenu seems the luckier of the duo, as her parents persuaded by her teacher, Maestra Oliviero, agrees for her to continue with her education. She decides to ignore the progress that Lila was making, the poverty in the neighbourhood, and even Antonio her boyfriend, whom she was barely using to feel the things she thought she ought to feel: to study and make the best of times. She studies, she emerges the best, but notwithstanding all her success stories, still feels’ Lila better. She is in love with Nino, the son of Donato Sarratore who has been making passes at her, but she finds herself unable to make the love into a form, and so it remained for a very long time, like a strong wind, a hurricane maybe, lashing at her heart.
This beautifully matted novel, promises to keep your eyes glued to every word, every sentence, every page, as you are led through the lives of these characters that reflected Italy at the time. The theme of feminism and the need for a reawakening, cannot be missed.
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist, born in 1943 in Naples, Italy. She has won the Independent Publishers Book Award for Literary Fiction and her book The Story of The Lost Child, was nominated for the International Booker Prize