I just finished…

…”The Story of the Lost Child,” the final volume in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. I don’t think you should read it if you haven’t read the others, but Adele, who did one-and-a-portion, is giving it a go. I or Wikipedia can fill her in with what she missed, I guess; then maybe she can fill me in on the full implications of what Ferrante has delivered. Otherwise, I will need a course or multiple re-reads, when I would rather move on to the next book in my stack.

Anyway, “Child” is loaded. Births, murders, natural deaths. Relationships come and go, some of great endurance, some within a single sentence. There is politics and sociology, history and the warring demands of career and family. Years can pass within a paragraph; characters with whom you have been embroiled for three volumes may disappear like a loose thread snipped. So much was happening, for much of the book, I wondered if Ferrante had forgotten the question she posed at the beginning of the first volume — and if the “Child” in the title was actual.

I am nowhere near giving these works justice, so let me quote the “Guardian” reviewer: “I am not sure I have read a more frightening account of a friendship, or a more unsentimental view of the use that human beings have for one another…”

I just finished…

…”Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” the third volume in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. We had been warned it was “too political,” but I didn’t find that so. Sure, Italian social disruptions of the 1960s influence the action, but the center of the book remains the internal lives and relationships of the characters, with Lena coming more into the fore and Lila receding into the background. In fact, by the last quarter of the book, Lena and two male characters so dominate the action, to the exclusion of all others, for the first time, I wasn’t turning back to the front to the Cast List to remind myself who was who. Which was a relief.

Recommended. But read the other two first.

I just finished…

…”My Brilliant Friend,” by Elena Ferrante. Our friend Marilyn often asks about novels, “Is it a boys’ book or a girls’ book?” I know what she means, though this is not a question that occurs to me. However, when the action shifted from childhood to adolescence, about, say, when the narrator began menstruating, I thought, Hey, this is a girls’ book. That through me off for a while, but then I got back into it, and I thought the most outstanding passage in the book occurred later, when the narrator reflected upon what a friend’s wedding night would be like. (The one quibble that stuck with me all the way through was that I wished Ferrante had done a better job individualizing her minor characters. Right to the end, I was skimming back to remind myself who Antonio and Pasquale and some of the others were.

Still, I will read Volume Two.