Books I hope you read: The Neapolitan Novels

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante


Have you heard about these books yet? They are a series of four novels following the lives of two Italian girls (Lila and Elena) in Naples for six decades. I finished the last one weeks ago and am still processing them, still finding words and feelings they left me.

These books celebrate womanhood while lifting up an alternative to traditional femininity in Lila, a character so sharply singular you feel her cutting through each page. To Lila, compromise is like a sulfur flame, and she’ll never allow herself to be burned. But this character being unlike anything or anyone else also becomes its own magic, because also in her agony I think all women can see some of their own experiences. The end result is that by knowing two women, you get an image of the whole world, you know all of humanity. And possibly the best marker of this book’s impact and Ferrante’s skill: I still can’t believe it’s not real. I’ve read all sorts of questionably-sourced materials searching for evidence that this is the true story of a woman reaching out in love and longing for her lifelong friend. I’m almost certainly wrong, but that’s how captivating it is. I hope everyone reads these.