Author: Elena Ferrante Series: The Neapolitan Novels #2 Genre: Historical Fiction Release Date: September 22, 2012 Book Length: 471 pages Publisher: Europa Editions Review: 5/5
My Brilliant Friend introduced readers to the unforgettable Elena and Lila, whose lifelong friendship provides the backbone for the Neapolitan Novels. The Story of a New Name is the second book in this series. With these books, which the New Yorker‘s James Wood described as “large, captivating, amiably peopled … a beautiful and delicate tale of confluence and reversal,” Ferrante proves herself to be one of Italy’s most accomplished storytellers. She writes vividly about a specific neighborhood of Naples from the late-1950s through to the current day and about two remarkable young women who are very much the products of that place and time. Yet in doing so she has created a world in which readers will recognize themselves and has drawn a marvelously nuanced portrait of friendship.
In The Story of a New Name, Lila has recently married and made her entrée into the family business; Elena, meanwhile, continues her studies and her exploration of the world beyond the neighborhood that she so often finds stifling. Love, jealousy, family, freedom, commitment, and above all friendship: these are signs under which both women live out this phase in their stories. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, and the pressure to excel is at times too much for Elena. Yet the two young women share a complex and evolving bond that is central to their emotional lives and is a source of strength in the face of life’s challenges. In these Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante, the acclaimed author of The Days of Abandonment, gives readers a poignant and universal story about friendship and belonging.
“… she was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was full of varied adventures as much as mine, and that time simply slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other every so often, to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other.”
I loved this book so much! The dynamic of Lina and Lila’s friendship as they’re growing into young adults was enthralling. They could not be more different, yet they compliment each other; they really are two sides of the same coin. Together, these two reach an equilibrium that could not be possible alone.
Admittedly, I really saw a lot of myself in the narrator, Lina. Lila is definitely the ‘pain in the ass’ of the two, as one character had put it, yet something about her draws Lina to her (and vice versa). The same could be said for me – as much as Lila annoyed and frustrated me at certain points in the book, I still couldn’t get enough of her; her energy was contagious, pulling me in like a magnet.
One of the best things about this series is that the author really makes you feel like you are there in Naples with the characters. I feel such a connection to the people sights in ‘the neighborhood’ – the old grocery, the new grocery, the Solara’s bar and pastry shop, the Cerullo shoe store, the old library, all of it. My favourite parts had to be all the ones surrounding the summer holiday in Ischia. This author really has a way of making you feel like you are there while reading, and it was a lovely escape from the state the world is in right now. Not to mention, the juiciest parts of the book happened in Ischia! I was truly shocked by what had transpired and was so eager to keep reading to see what was going to happen next. I would love to visit Ischia one day on summer holiday, if only to recount the feelings the book gave me in real life.
Just like the first book, the second also ended on the biggest cliff hanger! I am so eager to start the next book and admittedly also a little apprehensive because once it is done, there is only one more left, and I am not ready to say goodbye to these two just yet!