Author: Elena Ferrante Series: My Brilliant Friend #3 Genre: Historical Fiction Release Date: September 2, 2014 Book Length: 418 Publisher: Europa Editions Review: 3/5
In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her abusive husband and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which have opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women have pushed against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance, and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.
“A community that finds it natural to suffocate with the care of home and children so many women’s intellectual energies is its own enemy and doesn’t realize it.”
Okay yes, I know the cover to these books are really ugly, but I promise you, what’s inside is golden.
However, for the first time in the series, I’m a bit torn about how I feel about this book, mainly because the one juicy part of the whole thing consists of something that I hate: insta-love / a love subplot that comes randomly out of nowhere. On the one hand, I like that it happened because it gave me something to to keep turning the pages for, but on the other, I hate that it happened because it felt so out of place.
This book takes place in the 60s and 70s, mentioning a lot about the university and worker strikes that happened during that time in Italy, which was really interesting. I love all the historical aspects of the book and how they always tie together so well with the characters’ lives. Not only do I feel like I’ve learned something through the historical events, but it also drives the plot along, which is nice. People’s ideas of the role of women in society also begin to change in this book and I thought it was fascinating to read the progression.
The girls are in their 20s and 30s now, and Lila is as stubborn as ever, but Lenu surprised me. At the end, it felt like she became an entirely different person, and it kind of bothered me because her actions were so out of character. Though they are all grown up, it’s evident that their lives in the neighborhood have shaped – and continue to shape – who they are, even if they’ve both moved away from it.
If I could change one thing about this book, it would be how obsessed everyone is with Nino. There is no one that I know who still fantasizes about their elementary school crush, and honestly, I think Lenu needs to grow up and get over it. It kind of annoyed me that she constantly tried to find ways to bring him up and how she’s still bitter about things that happened in their childhood between him and Lila. These girls are constantly comparing each other and trying to one-up the other, and while it makes for an interesting story, sometimes it just gets so childish.
But anyway, now that I’m down to the last one, I can’t wait to see where the plot takes these characters as Ferrante always ends her books on a cliff-hanger and this one was no different!