The Family

The Family

Monday, December 22, 2014

To Naples

The title is misleading.

I'm not going to Naples. Nor have I ever been to Naples. In fact, after the series of books I've been reading the past few months, I have no desire to ever go to Naples.

Granted, Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels "My Brilliant Friend," "The Story of a New Name" and "Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay" cover a completely different time period, but they don't paint a glowing picture of Naples.

The novels are complicated. Not in the hard-to-read sense. More so the relationship of the protagonist and her so-called best friend. I say so-called because Lila doesn't seem to do much but hurt Elena during the span of their life-long friendship.

I'm not sure the word friend and Lila should be used in the same sentence. It's clear at times that she loves Elena, or Lenu, as she is affectionately called by those in her poor and violent Naples neighborhood. The character of Elena (this isn't supposed to be a biography, but who knows) is brutally honest about her life and choices. She adequately expresses her feelings in each novel. Feelings and emotions that every female has no doubt felt at different points in her life, but rarely has the courage to express or admit.

And even though it is Elena that has the redeeming qualities, it's precisely because of Lila that you keep reading the books. Just as Lila draws everyone in their Naples neighborhood in, so her character draws the reader. She is often so repulsive and vindictive that you want to reach through the pages to slap her. But when she is gone, when it is just Lenu, you can't want to get back to another portion about Lila.

The fourth book is set to be released in September 2015. Though I'd like to think I'll have moved on by that time, I know the desire to find out what happens to the women in later life will have too much of a pull.

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