The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante

I devoured all four of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels—My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child—this summer, and I’m still reeling from them. Ferrante (who has recently been outed as a Rome-based translator) captures human emotions, friendships and complex dynamics like no one I’ve ever read before. The main story, between Elena and Lila, is deep and moving, following the two from childhood to old age, from love to jealousy to hate and all the emotions in between.

I tried, afterward, to pick a favorite, but it was hard. My Brilliant Friend practically returned me to childhood and all its weird, irrational fears and beliefs. The Story of the Lost Child broke my heart, and left me hoping—even though I realize it’s fiction, realize these are made-up characters—that everyone still managed to find a happy ending. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay resonated most with me in my current stage of life as I juggle motherhood with writing. But, really, they were all brilliant and addicting.

As far as Ferrante’s true identity, I didn’t need it. Yes, I did google her, look at the conspiracy theories—with an author whose subject matter is that intense, how can you not wonder how much is real and how much is imagination. However, as she’s stated in the past that she didn’t think she could write the way she does being known, I’m okay not knowing her… but not with her not writing.

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