The so-called Ferrante Fever reached my country some months ago with this book series titled “The Neapolitan novels”, and I decided to read it just because everybody was reading it. However, what I found was not the typical bestseller, meaning a thriller you are hooked on for a couple of days, but a slow story about a complex friendship between two girls, framed in a low-class Italian neighbourhood.
Lila is brilliant; a girl who can achieve whatever she desires to, resourceful, witty and with charisma. On the other hand Lenù, our narrator, is an introvert, hard-working and not so outstanding girl. She is very good at school and she gets to study further courses than the majority of her classmates but, somehow, Lila always seems to go ahead of her in every aspect of their lives, making Lenù fight an internal battle between trying to be better than Lila and the feeling of guilt about her disloyalty to her friend.
The narration is set in the fifties in Naples, in a society in which everything seems to be like in the past. Girls are expected to find a suitable husband, the sooner the better, a task described as the finest art in the book; the richest families will always be superior and respected; the boys will always dominate their female friends and find any excuse to start a fight… But for our young protagonists there is also the hope that you can be something else through education, which is the only thing Lila and Lenù have in common: their willingness to learn and dream higher lives for themselves. However, they both are confined within the borders of this small place they live in, whose rules are hard to break.
It took me a long time to read the book; as I told you at the beginning, this is not a page-turner, but a slow narration that takes its time but does invite you to keep on reading. I enjoyed the dichotomy Lenù faces regarding this peculiar friendship; she depends on Lila in a way her friend does not, and that makes the relationship unbalanced and, therefore, the story interesting.
The only negative thing I have to point out is the abrupt ending – a chapter is over and the story doesn’t continue, hanging on in the middle of a scene, so to speak, for you to pick up the second volume I guess… Which I will soon do.
Are you also a victim of the #FerranteFever?
My brilliant friend
Published by Europa Editions