Read The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante Ann Goldstein Online


The second book, following 2012’s acclaimed My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others.The second book, following 2012’s acclaimed My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the sometimes cruel price that this passage exacts....

Title : The Story of a New Name
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781609451479
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 299 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Story of a New Name Reviews

  • Francesca Marciano
    2019-02-16 18:08

    I finished Elena Ferrante's second volume a few hours ago and I'm overwhelmed by her power. She writes with her fingers stuck inside a electric plug. She drills and drills all the way through the tiniest sensation, till she reaches raw matter. The story of the New Name is even more entrancing than My brilliant friend, the first volume of the trilogy, which I devoured. Lila and Lena, the two protagonists of volume one, are now two women. Their love hate relationship grows more intricate, so does their intellectual competition. What a wonderful, deep, contradictory, at times morbid, violent yet luminous, yet brilliant world does Ferrante's voice evoke! I urge you to get your hands on this magnificent saga.

  • Diane
    2019-01-30 13:08

    This novel broke my heart. It broke my heart so badly that I had to stop reading it for a few days to recover.This is the second book of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series, and it follows Elena and Lila from their teenage years and into their early 20s. Their neighborhood in Naples is still rough and violent in the 1960s, but Lila's marriage to the wealthy grocer Stefano allows her to climb out of the poverty. The two friends were often competitive, especially about school, but in book two, they are also competitive about men.Which brings me to why this novel broke my heart. It's hard to talk about this book without spoilers, so I shall hide it for those who don't want to know yet. (view spoiler)[Elena, who is our narrator, has been in love with Nino Sarratore since they were children. Nino is smart and driven, but also quiet and elusive. While on vacation, the beautiful Lila steals Nino away, and the two begin an affair. Lila insists she's fallen in love with Nino and wants to leave her husband. Meanwhile, Elena is so depressed over losing her chance with Nino that she ends up in a situation where she's seduced (you could also say raped) by Nino's creepy father.(hide spoiler)]While it took me a while to get into the first book in this series, My Brilliant Friend, I was instantly drawn up into the story in this second book. (There are still a lot of families and confusing nicknames to remember, but there is an Index of Characters at the beginning that is a helpful reference.) Early in the story, Elena admits she has read Lila's diary, which Lila gave to Elena to prevent Stefano from finding it. Having Lila's perspective on the events was a clever way to add depth to the narrative. At several times, Elena is so upset with Lila that she deliberately loses contact with her, and later she's able to fill in the gaps of what happened to her by reading the diary.While I have high praise for this novel, I also have a warning for those who don't like violence — this novel has innumerable incidents of domestic abuse and rape, and some of the scenes are deeply disturbing. Ferrante wrote stark descriptions of what happens when it becomes acceptable in a culture for men to beat women. For example, early in the novel, Stefano rapes Lila (also called Lina) on her wedding night:He leaned over to kiss her on the mouth, but she avoided him, turning her face forcefully to right and left, struggling, twisting, as she repeated, "Leave me alone, I don't want you, I don't want you, I don't want you."At that point, almost against his will, the tone of Stefano's voice rose: "Now you're really pissing me off, Lina."He repeated that remark two or three times, each time louder, as if to assimilate fully an order that was coming to him from very far away, perhaps even from before he was born. The order was, be a man, Ste': either you subdue her now or you'll never subdue her; your wife has to learn right away that she is the female and you're the male and therefore she has to obey. (emphasis mine) My point is that even though this is the story of two female friends, I have found these novels to be very thoughtful in their social commentary, especially with the different paths that Elena and Lila took. Elena stayed in school and wanted to find a career that would allow her to move away, but Lila chose to marry a successful businessman and stay in the neighborhood. However, each woman still deals with rape and the threat of violence, they still push and struggle to change their roles as girlfriends and wives, and they have to handle criticism and judgment when they try to better themselves through reading and education. Basically it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.The drama of the two women was so real and well-written that I feel as if know them. I did like the first book, but I thought this second book was a much stronger story. And now I am so engrossed in their lives that I instantly started reading book three after finishing book two. Highly recommended.Favorite Quotes"If nothing could save us, not money, not a male body, and not even studying, we might as well destroy everything immediately.""Of course, the explanation was simple: we had seen our fathers beat our mothers from childhood. We had grown up thinking that a stranger must not even touch us, but that our father, our boyfriend, and our husband could hit us when they liked, out of love, to educate us, to reeducate us.""But one afternoon Lila said softly that there was nothing that could eliminate the conflict between the rich and the poor ... Those who are on the bottom always want to be on top, those who are on top want to stay on top, and one way or another they always reach the point where they're kicking and spitting at each other.""She chose a different path and one can't go back, life takes us where it wants.""I said to myself every day: I am what I am and I have to accept myself; I was born like this, in this city, with this dialect, without money; I will give what I can give, I will take what I can take, I will endure what has to be endured.""Don't read books that you can't understand, it's bad for you.""My parents, my siblings were very proud of me, but, I realized, they didn't know why: what use was I, why had I returned, how could they demonstrate to the neighbors that I was the pride of the family? If you thought about it I only complicated their life, further crowding the small apartment, making more arduous the arrangement of beds at night, getting in the way of a daily routine that by now didn't allow for me. Besides, I always had my nose in a book, standing up, sitting in one corner or another, a useless monument to study, a self-important, serious person whom they all made it their duty not to disturb, but about whom they also wondered: What are her intentions?"

  • Violet wells
    2019-01-20 18:59

    Elena Ferrante is an absolute marvel. This was utterly ravishing. How does she do it? Structurally her novels could hardly be more conservative, her subject matter – the fraught friendship of two women – has been done to death. And yet you’re constantly left with the feeling that no one has ever done what she does before. Or at least no one has done it with such searing insight and freshness. Only a handful of writers can undress and get to the heart of women as lucidly and thrillingly as Ferrante. The first hundred pages especially were quite simply a dazzling display of a writer removing all the paint and powder from a woman's face mask and showing us the naked truths beneath. Ferrante is like a kind of dream psychoanalysis. She dispels all the fog, unravels all the knots of a woman’s deepest feeling and elucidates in simple language the fount, the hidden motive. She always knows the secret as to why her women are doing what they do. She once said in an interview that her ambition was to make the facts of ordinary life gripping. She achieves this by elucidating the emotional/motivational source of many of these facts. She also has this extraordinary talent for easing into her narrative and explaining difficult subjects without sacrificing a single beat of the fabulous driving momentum of her story. There are no divergences in this novel; every line is intrinsic to understanding Elena and Lila’s struggles to achieve identity and autonomy. For example, the domestic violence in this novel is all the more powerfully disturbing for the lack of emphasis she gives it, as if it’s no more extraordinary than a trip to the shops. It makes the domestic violence in, for example, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing seem written up and theatrical. In fact the ease with which she feeds hugely complex and pivotal experience into her narrative makes most other contemporary novelists seem a bit written up and theatrical. There’s a fleet-footed breeziness to Ferrante’s storytelling which is quite simply bewitching in its ease of assurance. I put off reading this for ages because for some reason I thought it might be a disappointment after My Brilliant Friend. On the contrary it’s even better.

  • Kelly
    2019-01-30 14:19

    What's your ugly place?We all have one. We all have a place we quite deliberately do not go to. That we are aware is there, but have developed systems and defensive walls and jokes and denials in order to keep it out of the light of day. It's the place you can't help but end up sometimes when something particularly embarrassing happens to you, something tragic, an epiphany about yourself that you didn't particularly want occurs to you. It's the place where you were the person you never, ever wanted to be lives, and the memories of when that person came out that one time that you never want to think about again.That deep down dark pit of your stomach feeling that’s welling up and over as that image comes to your brain? That’s it. That’s the visceral level of vulnerability, insecurity, ugliness and pain that I saw there. And there is where you need to be to understand everything I'm about to tell you.Because that place is where this novel goes. This thing hit me where I live. Which means, as you can probably tell already, that reading Story of a New Name is not something I would recommend for anyone in a fragile emotional state. It isn’t for anyone who is still too close to being an insecure, bookish not-quite-teenager anymore with major self esteem issues. Even a few years ago, I think reading this might have sent me into a depressive, melodramatic spiral like when I saw Melancholia, which had to have been the literal worst thing I could have chosen to see while writing my thesis in a foreign country at a school full of people smarter than me. I saw it three times and lost a weekend before I could see straight again.Which is what may happen with Elena Ferrante. Which is totally insane, when you read these books objectively. Or at least, I think it would be, I have no way of really telling right now. Her style is, for the most part, this totally bare, bald-faced thing that just tells you exactly what is happening to her characters in their mundane, perfectly ordinary 1960s poor Italian lives. The engine driving the drama that the things that keep happening keep right on damn happening to them and the second volume is no better. Ferrante is as merciless as time, marching on without a thought for her characters and their development, who really could use some more time in this stage of their personal development or other. Ferrante, like the harsh Naples neighborhood she raises her characters in, doesn’t allow herself to give a damn. I can absolutely guarantee you, whatever you sign up for, you should sign up for some “shit happens” and very little mercy granted, because that’s how it goes with Ferrante. (Sometimes I think that the main narrator’s school and career arc is the mercy bone she threw us just to keep us from looking away.)The second volume of this series focuses on the girls’ late adolescence and post-adolescence, the years that for most of us would be covered by late high school, college and your first post-college job. As with the first novel, the pages of the novel are covered over with a powerful atmosphere that burns right through the pages until you’re sitting right with Lila and Elena with sand in your outdated bathing suit on the beach at Ischia, standing on a street corner watching a too-flashy sports car go by, catching a glimpse of a movie star that looks like your friend, with Elena in a cramped corner of a bedroom like a modern Italian Fanny Price, angrily swatting at mosquitoes and trying to keep still in the suffocating heat. The courtyards of broken glass, wailing from the windows, and women, uncommented upon, wearing bruises to work the next day is as sickeningly evoked as ever. One of the more fascinating atmospheric elements that Ferrante added demonstrated the stage of development where you become aware that you are not the center of the universe in a variety of ways- in this case for characters living in poverty and powerlessness, most of them borne in forcibly upon you whether you like it or not. Ferrante starts to introduce the gradual intrusion of politics and political identity- tellingly, it mostly shows in one more tribal identity, one more way for the kids to divide themselves- mostly in increased accusations of “Fascist pig!” and “Red communist!” thrown around in place of remarks on one’s face and person, and one kid going to one meeting and one going to another. Elena also encounters this world, but again, not in itself, but as a piece of currency in the game of the class system, another piece of another kind of tribal mask that she’s trying hard to don:”Professor Airota and his daughter, had, for example, affectionate skirmishes on political subjects that I had heard about from Pasquale, from Nino, but whose substance I knew almost nothing about. Arguments like: you’ve been trapped by inter-class collaboration, you call it a trap, I call it mediation; mediation in which the Christian Democrats always and only win; you’re not reforming a thing; in our place what would you do; revolution, revolution and revolution; revolution is taking Italy out of the middle ages…. Like that, a swift back and forth: a polemical exercise that they both obviously enjoyed…. What I had never had and, I now knew, would always lack. What was it? I wasn’t able to say precisely: the training, perhaps, to feel that the questions of the world were deeply connected to me; the capacity to feel them as crucial and not purely as information to display at an exam, in view of a good grade; a mental conformation that didn’t reduce everything to my own individual battle, to the effort to be successful.”That one hit me hard. This is is a really tough book on the class system and the unseen, building damage that it does to the psyche. The sort of psychology on display here is the sort of thing I learned in my urban teacher training program, or learned first hand when faced with some of my students. Elena spends a great deal of the back half of this book anxiously trying to decode and adopt the unwritten rules of being middle class- the words, the clothes, what I was trained to call the “cultural knapsack” that middle class kids often get seemingly by osmosis. Ferrante shows the utter human waste that happens as a result- invisible waste, as far as we’re concerned- the brilliant minds that never get a chance to take over the world, the fruit seller who is unexpectedly good at math, the entrepreneurial ideas crushed by self-confidence issues and family squabbles. It’s much harder to look at than any of the wasted landscapes or shabby apartments that she describes.And watching Elena sew her middle class mask onto her face tighter and tighter, laboring at it for years, and watching the ugly ugly road that it takes to get there (of which Ferrante only tells you the barest part, but it isn’t hard to guess) it… well… did anyone else watch Battlestar Galatica? Do you remember that time that Baltar was in jail after fucking up yet again, and he talks to… Lee, I think, finally opening up to him a little bit about where he’s from? Fuck, I wish I could find it. But while he’s talking to him, hanging his head in the darkness with his hair covering his face, he slowly lets his cultured British accent morph into a thick, gravelly, hick voice that is clearly his natural tone. He makes it as scary as possible, throwing it at aristocratic Lee like a weapon, moving to the bars with red eyes, like he’s morphing himself into the monster he believes himself to be. It’s like that, but mannered, expressed in ladylike, spare lines like this:”…. I was so glad that no one in that nice little family had asked me, as happened frequently, where I came from, what my father did and my mother, I was I, I, I.”It makes sense why, later in the novel, there’s a passage about how so many characters are confused when Lila wants to go take a job in the center of the city. She’s a veritable queen in the old neighborhood, and can lord it over anyone there, lend them money, show them up in clothes, people are now afraid to cross her…. Why would she want to go to the nicer part of town, where her illusions will be shattered? Why would she want to take that away that illusion from herself?This class angle had a lot to do with the ugly place I was telling you about before, which is the deep-seeded insecurity that runs throughout this entire book. But while class and place and atmosphere are the bedrock reasons, the insecurity I’m talking about here has to do with friendship. This series is, after all, about a friendship. No matter what other powerful stuff buttresses it under the surface, that provided it with its foundation, we’re far enough along into the lives of these girls that the friendship has now taken on a life of its own. We’ve reached the point, as happens in a lot of long-running friendships, where the thing has become overripe- it’s become something rotten and possibly poisonous, something that probably should have been dumped overboard a long time ago. But you’re still at the place where you can’t quite let it go.Especially when it’s a powerful relationship with someone as charismatic as Lila- someone you looked up to, someone you put on a pedestal and set up as a sort of personal muse/deity/devil. It’s a fascinating, minute examination of a part of the consequences of an expanding consciousness of the world- namely that you realize that you, your friend, and your courtyard are no longer the center of the universe. Elena is starting to become aware, in fits and starts, of the fact that Lila has a personality and limits, just like she does. She starts to say things like “this is what she does.” She starts to express annoyance, and there’s even a few times, where she pathetically tries to keep Lila out: “In the past there had been Lila, a continuous happy detour into surprising lands. Now everything I was I wanted to get from myself. I was almost nineteen, I would never again depend on someone, and I would never again miss someone.”And even a whole chapter where she experiments writing about her own life without referencing Lila at all, something neat, clean, undisturbed…. And something that lasts two pages before Lila returns:“How easy it is to tell the story of myself without Lila: time quiets down and the important facts slide along the thread of the years like suitcases on a conveyor belt at an airport; you pick them up and put them on a page and it’s done.It’s more complicated to recount what happened to her in those years. The belt slows down, accelerates, swerves abruptly, goes off the tracks. The suitcases fall off, fly open, her things end up among mine: to accommodate them, I am compelled to return to the narrative concerning me (and that had come to be unobstructed) and expand phrases that now sound too concise…. My life forces me to imagine what hers would have been if what happened to me had happened to her, what use she would have made of my luck. And her life continuously appears in mine, in the words that I’ve uttered, in which there’s often an echo of hers, in a particular gesture that is an adaptation of a gesture of hers, in may less which is such because of her more, in my more which is yielding to the force of her less.”She can’t leave her behind. There’s a lot of reasons why, but at the heart of it is another class battle of sorts to do with Elena’s identification as an intellectual, and a discussion of different kinds of intelligence and which one is “better”. Lila’s is the kind that poets romanticize, people are magnetically drawn to, that succeeds when it shouldn’t, but also continues to push and push until it inevitably breaks something. ( “Is it possible that you must always do harm, Lila? When will you stop? When will your energy diminish, will you be distracted, when will you finally collapse like a sleepy sentinel? When will you grow wide and sit at the cash register in the new neighborhood, with your stomach swelling and make Pinuccia and aunt, and me, me, me, leave to go my own way?”- runs the imagined inner monologue of one of the characters) While Elena’s… well, Elena’s is kind that gets you through high school and college and into a steady job and the plaudits of those around you. It’s the sort of self-punishing struggle that most intellectuals put themselves through at some point, and probably most of their lives, if they identify as or are put into the role of a “smart kid” early enough. You were that kid, right? A lot of us were. But then you met that other kid, right? The one who was smarter than you. If you’re me, you met a whole group of them in which you were the least intelligent person. If you’re lucky, you felt challenged, you felt yourself blossom. If you weren’t, you felt inadequate, like your identity had melted away and you never quite recovered. If you’re super unlucky, like Elena, you get the triple double horrible punch of feeling elated/exhilarated/proud/betrayed/insecure/unhappy/angry/sad every time you see this person wasting themselves away. If you’ve never had that sort of deep friendship, the kind that’s gone wrong and back around the corner again (or even if it never quite come back again), the sort that’s steered your life, I don’t know how to explain it to you. The closest I can come is that Cathy Heathcliff thing, it’s that thing where Cathy tells people that Heathcliff is a part of her, and that really sucks and it’s no pleasure to her most of the time, but there he is and there’s really no way to tear him out again and you’re going to have to live with the goddamn thing because if you don't, you'll pull out such a big piece of you that what you consider your Self will effectively die.She burns it up again at the end though, even after everything we see them go through. That end, man. I can’t leave without talking about it. Elena goes to see Lila, to share some important, happy news with her, news that she is convinced will change things, will ignite something good in her again. And she does, but then Lila’s reaction, what she sees her do in response. And what happens to her- what she thinks she realizes- It was a gut punch that I can only describe by going back to Baltar again. Remember in the last episoe- he’s with Six and they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to get by on the new planet and he says, in the most broken little voice you’ve ever heard, like he absolutely can’t believe he’s bringing it up:“You know, I know about farming?”If you were the person who, like me, was utterly destroyed by that moment, then you need to read this book. If you were any of the people described above, or if you have that ugly place, you need to read this book. If you’re looking to be transported, if you’re looking for something that can consume you for days, you need to read this book. So I guess, really, I would say that if you’re alive in any way, I’m sure that there’s a reason that you should probably read this book.Instant personal classic, instant all-time favorites list, will be re-reading this once a decade for the rest of my life. Why? “…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 and foolish 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 one brain echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other.”That’s why.(This review originally appeared on my blog at:

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-01-22 21:05

    This is a marvelous novel with heart and soul, Neapolitan heart and soul that is. The second installment in the famous Elena Ferrante tetralogy, for me anyway, exceeded the first book in originality and plot line. I found it moving and a very quick read despite its nearly 500 page length.For this review, I wanted to focus on the title and the importance of names in Ferrante's work. First off, there is, it seems to me, a Proustian reference here to "Le nom du pays - Le nom" which is the somewhat ambiguous subtitle of one of the early sections of La Recherche du Temps Perdu. There are some similarities between Proust's style of describing Marcel's youth to how Ms. Ferrante describes Elena's youth. There is also a second subtle Proustian technique: we learn in this book that the narrator writes her first book and publishes it under her name "Elena" and we know the author's name is given as Elena, so as the same ambiguity exists between Marcel and Elena the narrators, Marcel and Elena the characters, and Marcel and Elena the authors of the book. Underneath this, in the narrative itself, names play a huge role in the story. The, and I apologize for the overwrought term "ambiguity" once again, ambiguous frontier between Elena/Lina/Lenucchia and Lila/Lenù is apparent in their names and their nicknames. [As an aside, is it me or does the Italian language have an incredible plethora of nicknames?] Elena's search for identity is complex and goes through ups and downs, a reason for this is precisely how hard it is for her to distinguish herself from Lila in her own head - complex because their trajectories, their looks, their families are both so incredibly different and yet Elena has this magnetic, inevitable attraction to her friend and this impedes her search for self.We pick up the lives of Lila and Elena in the 60s after Lila's mariage to Stefano and during Elena's studies in high school and at university in Pisa. The themes that were present in My Brilliant Friend resonate here once again, especially those of the subjugation of women and the problems of class. Elena's sexual initiation and the battering of Lila by Stefano serve as examples of the former whereas both characters struggles to escape the Neopolitan slums permeate both of their stories. What fascinates me as a reader is the raw, realistic descriptions of Elena's success in gaining some recognition in "good society" and her complex feelings of shame and pride that envelope her. As for Lila, her attempts to escape her disastrous mariage lead her to mistreat Elena time and time again, and despite her heart-stopping beauty and sensuality, she seems inescapably tied to the neighborhood - the Camorra as represented by the Solari brothers and her dialect which binds her to her fate as well. What also strikes me is the lucid interpretation of the characters' actions. When Nino kisses Elena on the cheek, and then, fatefully, Lila, "[I]n his view it meant: Let's get rid of all the filters that prevent us from fully savoring our being here and now, real" (p. 223). This is actually another theme of the book, how do we live authentically despite the constraints of our culture and our upbringing. The dialogs are rapid-fire and full of irony and meaning. I regret that I cannot read in Italian because I imagine that the passages between Italian and dialect and the intertextual inferences must be even better in the original. The perception of our own self-deception on a daily basis also pervades the text: "There are moments when we resort to senseless formulations and advance absurd claims to hide straightforward feelings" (p. 271) is a lucid truth that is observed by the narrator again and again. Time and time again, Elena is led down corridors of moral ambivalence, "I was there on the island, the air stirred by the cab's movement assailed me with the intense odors of the vegetation from which the night was evaporating. But it was a mortified presence, submissive to the demands of others" (p. 284). In this way, both Naples and Ischia are also characters in the story in how they form the personality of the protagonists. The real problem for Elena is her own lack of self-identity, self-love: "Their passion invaded me, disturbed me. I loved them both and so I couldn't love myself, feel myself, affirm myself with a need for life of my own, one that had the same blind, mute force as theirs, So it seemed to me." (p. 284) There is a gorgeous passage on page 289 of soul-searching on the beach where we feel her pain, her alienation from herself that was literally painful to read: "Lila is right, the beauty of things is a trick, the sky is the throne of fear." Powerful words. Water and the sea are a consistent metaphor for the narrator's self-loathing: "And if on the surface my condition might seem more solid, more compact, here instead, beside Lila, I felt sodden, earth too soaked with water." (p. 294) Yet, it is at this point, after the fateful night away from Nunzio that Elena starts to change once again and find herself. This passage was brilliant: "And her life continuously appears in mine, in the words that I've uttered, in which there's often an echo of hers, in a particular gesture that is an adaptation of a gesture of hers, in my less which is such because of her more, in my more which is the yielding to the force of her less. Not to mention what she never said but let me guess, what I didn't know and read later in her notebooks. Thus the story of the facts has to reckon with filters, deferments, partial truths, half lies: from it comes an arduous measurement of time passed that is based completely on the unreliable measuring device of words." (p. 337). And yet those words are where Elena will find vindication and meaning as she is finally able to put them on paper and write her first book. This comes, of course, after more tribulation in Pisa where Elena feels the social distance between her and the academic society: "Gone was the pleasure of re-educating my voice, my gestures, my way of dressing and walking, as if I were competing for the prize of the best disguise, the mask worn so well that is was almost a face." (p. 400) This passage reminded me a lot of the Bal des Masques in Le Temps Retrouvé. And it is precisely at this moment of reflection that she writes her book. I can't wait to read the third volume of this series and can't emphasize enough how engaging a read these books are. I hope my review will incite you to read or reread this magnificent book. C'mon library, hurry up! :)

  • Candi
    2019-02-02 14:03

    4.5 stars"Yes, it’s Lila who makes writing difficult. My life forced me to imagine what hers would have been if what happened to me had happened to her, what use she would have made of my luck. And her life continuously appears in mine, in the words that I’ve uttered, in which there’s often an echo of hers, in my less which is such because of her more, in my more which is the yielding to the force of her less."This second book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series continues the story of two childhood friends, now young adults, Lila and Elena. Just as riveting as My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name captured my attention from page one. It’s quite dramatic really, and I found that at times my head was spinning from the depth of the penetrating look at the lives, behaviors, motivations and innermost thoughts of this pair. Now, a book that sets my head spinning can be a good thing – and it was here. An accomplished writer like Ferrante can draw you in like you are watching the drama play out right in front of you. It did require, however, a step back from time to time to relax and catch my breath. A bit of re-energizing is necessary to take it all in! Imagine yourself a teenager still, with all the complexities of emotions, the uncertainties, the jealousies, and the sometimes rash behaviors attributed to you and your friends and acquaintances. But now add in a degree of poverty that most of us are fortunately not accustomed to, violence that I pray most are not subjected to, and the expectations and obstacles faced by women in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This is precisely what Lila and Elena deal with and what we as readers are privy to through the lens provided to us. Now, if you haven’t read the first book in the series, you may want to stop reading this review at this point. I’m not revealing any spoilers, but I personally didn’t want any details before reading and you may feel the same. I just want to talk about Lila and Elena a little bit more. Throughout the novel, I found myself reflecting on the two and who was better off, who the stronger of the two characters, etc. I think the opening quote to my review really sums up the relationship between the two and I came to my own conclusion, whether right or wrong, that each completes the other. Elena may have had more educational opportunities, but without the encouragement of Lila as well as a sense of competition, she may not have had the drive to take advantage of those opportunities. Lila finds herself in a marriage that does not suit her from the beginning, but she will fight for something more. She has more material possessions, and after all, wasn’t that the dream these two had as little girls? Wasn’t that the goal of going to school and receiving an education? They wanted to become rich! But happiness is elusive. Perhaps riches are not enough. Is it too late to re-make oneself and achieve something more? I think Lila can sustain herself knowing that Elena has been successful with her studies. Maybe there are more ways to rise above the poverty and the violence of the neighborhood other than money. The narrative is written from Elena’s point of view, but we also get occasional glimpses from Lila’s point of view through a series of notebooks she entrusted to Elena. Notebooks that Elena was not given permission to read, but that is neither here nor there! If your best friend gave you her diary for safekeeping, what would you do?! Maybe your friend gave you the diary because she couldn’t express the deepest feelings in her heart, and she knew that you would not be able to resist? In this way, you can share your thoughts in a less confrontational manner perhaps. I don’t really know, but it was certainly a clever means for us to glean more than just Elena’s point of view here. I don’t know that I can say much more about this book or this series – it’s one that I could contemplate for an indefinite amount of time! So much happens in these pages, but none of it is confusing. There are a lot of names and variations of names for the same person. A guide at the front of the book helps with this. Otherwise, it flows seamlessly and is written skillfully. There is drama, but I don’t mean to say it’s melodramatic. Not in the least. I will admit that it is addicting! Oh, and that ending! I will read the next in the series, albeit with a bit of a break in between.

  • William1
    2019-01-27 21:01

    "For your whole life you love people and you never really know who they are." (Nunzia to Lenù, p.215)This one's a heartbreaker. So exquisitely rendered that you'll recognize your own hideous pain rising up to assail you again, dear Reader; your losses, your miseries in the cause of love. Ferrante makes universal the disparate pain all loving creatures suffer. Toward the end, when reality becomes too much for some of the characters, they descend into scarily dissociative states that surprise and rattle.The novel's narrative pleasure is dizzying. Every action naturally folds into the next; the continuity is superb. The clarity is extraordinary, it never relents. I found myself slowing down to take in the richness as I would when reading a poem. That's the paradox Ferrante incites in readers: between wanting to gallop through the stunning tale, to just gobble it up like cake, and slowing down to take in the beauty of its structure and language.It's the early 1960s in Naples and Lina Carracci (née Cerullo) is newly and miserably married and living in virtual purdah with her husband, Stefano, whom she has quickly learned to hate because he is a tool of the Solaras, who are Cammora. Mr. and Mrs. Carracci live quite well in a new apartment with modern decor and lots of money because of their connection to these local criminals. Lina, we will recall from volume one, My Brilliant Friend, was unable to go on with her education at age ten or so and was made to work in her father's shoe shop. Her chance of a higher education gone—even though she was the smartest girl in the school—she then had to resort to other means of self advancement, namely marriage. In the early going here it's not going so well. She feels, not without justification, that Stefano tricked her into marriage. So she refuses him the great gift and he beats her to a pulp regularly, in effect raping his wife.In her friend Lenù, our narrator, Lina sees her own lost dream of education still alive. Yet Lenù's having her man problems too. Her lover, Antonio, a car mechanic, suspects her of interest in another fellow, Nino, who is intellectually Lenù's match in a way Antonio can never be. Lenù stays with the blue collar Antonio, though, because she doesn't feel worthy of Nino, having come from a background much like Antonio's. Lenù disparages her intellect and achievements, lusting over the distant Nino. She is trying to make that leap but can't see how she might do it. This is all a little silly when you consider that Nino is actually from her own neighborhood. She's known him since she was a child. But his father moved out of the neighborhood many years ago and became a college professor. And now Lenù feels Nino's somehow out of her league.There was no escape. No, neither Lina nor I would ever become like the [sophisticated] girl who had waited for Nino after school. We both lacked something intangible but fundamental, which was obvious in her even if you simply saw her from a distance, and which one possessed or did not, because to have that thing it was not enough to learn Latin or Greek or philosophy, nor was the money from groceries or shoes of any use. (p. 84)Suffice it to say, Nino is more available then Lenù suspects. That's the problem. I say no more. Read.The long interlude on the beach at Ischia reminds me very much of Cesare Pavese's novellas, particularly "The Beach," as found in The Selected Works. One of Nino's sisters is even named Clelia. Another work, which harrowingly evokes the terrors of youthful sexual awakening, is brought to mind by The Story Of A New Name, and that's Knut Hamsun's Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers. See my reviews of both books.On to Volume 3....

  • Orsodimondo
    2019-01-26 14:26

    AMICHE GENIALIL'adattamento della tetralogia My Brilliant Friend andato in scena a Londra al Rose Theatre di Kingston.La lingua napoletana, che con generosità, a volte invadenza, ci viene offerta, o imposta, dagli scrittori e dagli abitanti di quella splendida città, qui manca del tutto. Ho l'impressione che manchi perfino più che nel primo episodio di questa saga, e quasi se ne sente la mancanza: forse perché a volte Ferrante si prodiga a spiegarci il tipo di dialetto che sta usando un suo personaggio invece di farcelo leggere, invece di farcelo sentire.Immagine in copertina di ”Meine geniale Freundin”.Credo sia il suo bisogno di comunicare a tutti indistintamente, di essere capita e non rischiare di essere fraintesa: in queste pagine c’è un’urgenza di racconto che sembra ansia. Eppure, la lingua è sempre controllata, la comprensione sempre agevolata, il pensiero e il sentimento di Ferrante passano a me lettore senza filtri e senza intralci. Magia del talento, della grande letteratura.Herbert ListMan mano, questo libro è diventato una droga in senso letterale: non ne potevo fare a meno, non potevo lasciarlo – ho perfino messo da parte il Dampyr del mese, che di solito brucia nelle mani finché non lo leggo, e invece questa volta è passato in secondo ordine. Perché Lenuccia e Lila m’interessavano di più, mi assorbivano del tutto.Il Rose Theatre nel quartiere di Kingston è un teatro shakespeariano con capienza di circa 900 posti. In platea si siede portandosi i cuscini da casa e il biglietto costa molto poco.Non che Ferrante racconti eventi, o misteri, o fatti speciali: si legge di amori, matrimoni, fidanzamenti, rotture, tradimenti, concepimenti, serate in pizzeria, chiacchiere tra amiche, negozi che aprono, gente che fa affari, altra che fallisce, vacanze a Ischia, appuntamenti d’amore, studi e scuola…. In pratica, l’universo intero: niente di speciale, nessun evento, nessun mistero...Cos’è che di quest'opera prende in modo così irresistibile? Il ritmo del racconto? La fluidità della scrittura? La trama alla quale è facile ‘partecipare’? La qualità delle protagoniste? O il coro dei comprimari sempre presente? ”Via Curiel” di Mara Cerri e Magda Guidi.Ma, c’è qualcosa che allontana questa saga da altre più o meno simili: la ‘cattiveria’ di Lila, che è forza di carattere determinazione e coraggio di una giovane (giovanissima) che all’inizio degli anni Sessanta, in un ‘rione’ di Napoli capitale del Meridione d’Italia, entra nel matrimonio, diventa sposa e moglie, e non vuole mollare, non vuole trasformarsi (“smarginarsi” *) e soccombere come ha visto succedere a sua madre e a tante altre donne, non vuole essere annullata in una condizione femminile che respinge e non riconosce come sua (si potrebbe darle torto? Si può in tutta sincerità dire che è storia vecchia, conclusa e superata?) – vuole “amare” invece di “volere bene”, amare come succede solo nei libri e al cinema, nel rione non lo dice e non lo pensa nessuno. ”Via Curiel” di Mara Cerri e Magda Guidi.Ma anche la sua amica io narrante, anche Elena/Lenù, che vede i suoi presunti limiti serrarla, che si giudica fragile e perdente in partenza, anche lei ha la stessa forza di carattere determinazione e coraggio, che la spingono a completare la scuola nonostante povertà e opposizione familiare, nonostante intorno a lei la scuola sia dai più considerata inutile e destinata a pochi privilegiati.Lenuccia trova proprio nello studio, nel superamento del dialetto, nell’appropriarsi della lingua italiana, nell’agognata laurea, trova riscatto e riconoscimento. (Se ti insegnano le cose fin da piccola, da grande si fa meno fatica in tutto, diventi una che sembra nata imparata.)Si esce dalla miseria, quella dei soldi e quella dello spirito, dalle periferie e dalla marginalità, conquistando il sapere, la lingua, il rispetto umano, la dignità della persona. Così poco attuale il “messaggio” di questa Ferrante, così fuori dal mondo e da come vanno davvero le cose, così rinfrescante…Lila ed Elena crescono, maturano, cambiano, evitano la smarginatura: e intorno a loro l’orizzonte si allarga, dal rione, da Napoli, passiamo al resto d’Italia, il Centro e anche il Nord, Pisa, Milano… Il paese si trasforma, e a me lettore non resta che attendere il prossimo capitolo del ciclo: per sapere cose che già conosco, ma che nessuno mi ha mai raccontato così.”Ferrante Fever” di Mara Cerri e Magda Guidi.*La smarginaturaChe le persone ancor più delle cose, perdessero i loro margini e dilagassero senza forma è ciò che ha spaventato di più Lila nel corso della sua vita. L’aveva atterrita lo smarginarsi del fratello, che amava più di ogni altro suo familiare, e l’aveva terrorizzata il disfarsi di Stefano nel passaggio da fidanzato a marito. Ho saputo solo dai suoi quaderni quanto l’avesse segnata la sua prima notte di nozze e come temesse il possibile stravolgersi del corpo del marito, il suo deformarsi per le spinte interne delle voglie e delle rabbie o, al contrario, dei disegni subdoli, della viltà. Specialmente di notte temeva di svegliarsi e di trovarlo sformato nel letto, ridotto a escrescenze che scoppiavano per troppo umore, la carne che colava disciolta, e con essa ogni cosa intorno, i mobili, l’intero appartamento e lei stessa, sua moglie, spaccata, risucchiata in quel flusso sporco di materia viva.Mauro Santini: Flòr da Baixa.

  • Maxwell
    2019-02-15 21:26

    4.5 stars Update: Bumping this one up to a 5 stars because after a few months of thinking about it, it's definitely my favorite in the series. I keep finding myself thinking of certain scenes and elements of this installment, and I love it.-----I'm not sure if I can write a coherent review of this book right now. There are so many layers to this story, so much to unpack, and yet still, as this is book 2 of 4, so much left to discover. I am incredibly impressed by Ferrante's ability to develop characters that are real, more real than almost any other characters I have read before. They have ambition, are flawed, fight and love and inspire.There is high probability I will come back and give this book a 5 star rating later, but for now I want to finish the series and accumulate my thoughts. Oh, and this book has one of the best pages of literature I've ever read, so there's that. I can't wait to read books 3 & 4!

  • Agnieszka
    2019-01-22 13:01

    I’m still a bit puzzled about the phenomen that Ferrante’s cycle is. I don’t find writing particuralry brilliant, I think I didn’t mark any single quote here and yet enjoyed the story. I thought it was very predictible at times, I could see what was coming and mostly hadn’t been suprised by the course of events and still kept reading. I can't say it was innovative or imaginative yet Ferrante managed to draw me in her world entirely. Maybe I’m mistaken, but as I mentioned in the review of MBF, I still haven’t spotted in the second volume anything to not maintain that Ferrante is excorcising her past. Her writing here feels too intimate, too personal to think about this one only as a fictional story. Perhaps her case is similar to other writers, including Edward St. Aubyn and hisPatrick Melrose orMy struggle by Karl Ove Knausgård that I’m reading now, and this is her way to deal with the demons of the past, a necessary step on the way to move on, to finally let go.I’ve returned to Lila and Elena’ story after over two years and I find myself still engaged in their story and difficult friendship, the relationship that actually feels more like challenging than supporting each others. I was suprised how easily I entered their lives again and how much I rememberd from the previous tome. Of course some names eluded me but the main protagonists didn’t fade in my memory. Like in the first installment this one bases on choices girls had made already and its aftermaths. It’s useless to describing the plot for you either buy this story or not, either you’re involved and concerned their fates or are bored and somewhat dismissive, like, you know, such things still happen so what’s the point to write hundreds pages about it? I for my part was really engaged from the first page and thought that strength of the novel lies just in this meticulous description, this detailed dissection, this ugly at times mundanity and sheer ordinariness of their lives.The Story of a New Name is about losing old self and identity and by adopting a new name, the husband’s name, forging the new one. It’s about struggling to remain oneself in mostly man’s world, where masculine point of view is sanctity and it’s highly unreasonable to defy established order. It’s about violence womens were still subjected to and time-honoured agreement to it. It’s about humilitian that not only fathers or husbands deliver but also women to themselves. It's about attempting to break the vicious circle of poverty and misery by abandoning not only family home, not even a quarter and neighbourhood but also a city if it needs.Lila’s figure is more complicated one and she is far more reckless, rebellious and untamed than in the first volume, she hurts and degradates Elena because she herself is a victim. Their relationship once again is full of mutual resentments and envy and admiration and their sense of closeness more and more precarious. Ferrante doesn’t shy away from speaking of violence and abuse and rape and wife-beaters; she bluntly describes the ugly face of Lila’s marriage and where and why it failed. She lets us know the moment when the girls, young women actually, had to acknowledge the truth that no matter what they would do, no matter how much money Lila has now or how educated Elena is, they still would have no chance with thoroughbred, that true class and natural grace is not to buy or imitate.I think I’m enjoying the story because it has an air of something tangible, it’s like hearing about people you know in real life, people you're supporting in their struggling. I don’t expect anything spectacular or flamboyant or bigger than life. And I think I’ll stop here.

  • Trish
    2019-01-20 20:08

    When we get to the end of the second book in Ferrante’s quartet of novels, we think we see the genesis of that quartet: a twenty-day writing exercise that took the angst out of university graduation for Elena Greco, also called Lenù. Although I struggled through this volume, listening to the voices of teens talking about their confusion and noting their lack of confidence while they strode boldly ahead, all was forgiven in the last one hundred pages.The girls are now women, having earned a few hard-won truths they will use to the end of their days. The first lessons last longest. Lina and Lenù, the names barely distinguishable when heard, have discovered that in early 1960’s Italy, it is still a man’s world. Lina is unafraid and almost preternaturally resistant to control. She is curious, and furious. She is still the one we look to when we want to know what comes next. Her refusal to take what’s coming to her makes everyone, paradoxically, jealous of her.Lenù is soft and bosomy and tries very hard to rustle up indignation about world peace, about Lina taking a lover (Lenù's lover), about her prospects after university. She wants to feel things as deeply and as ardently as Lina. When she sees Lina again at the end of this novel, we can tell she knows she will never reach those depths. And perhaps it is just as well. One must have the whole package if one is to survive those depths: a fierce, innovative intelligence and an unrelenting determination to survive on one’s own terms.Put in the context of world literature, this series is developing into something remarkable. The voices of women in a man’s world are so seldom heard without interference or distortion. While that may not be true today, it was certainly true in 1960’s Italy, and to have even a glimpse behind the veil is something precious. But this is fiction, you protest. Ah, nobody could make a world so complete, so filled with recognizable motivations, were it not at least close to a kind of universal truth.Besides that, there is the style of the work: it is so accessible, so female, so filled with things men would never say, never contemplate saying. We all grew up reading the writing of men, so we can consider ourselves experts. This work is different. It dwells on minutiae. The aspects of characters are raked over, head to foot, for what they reveal about that character’s state of mind and intention. The story slows while we contemplate their dilemmas, and like women everywhere, put ourselves in their place. It is a kind of soap opera, but the very best kind. It is the kind that teaches us something about how the world works and how other have dealt with circumstances we might encounter.But it may be the language that is the most remarkable thing of all. Throughout the novel we hear Lenù talking about dialect versus Italian, implying that there are things that can be said in Italian that can not be conveyed in dialect. Well, it seems that there is also a kind of alchemy here that relates to the language Ferrante uses that gives us direct access to the hearts and minds of two women on the cusp of adulthood. Other people have tried to do this, but Ferrante has succeeded beyond the borders of her own country, beyond her generation, beyond her sex. When Elena says she went to Lina at the end of the novel to “show her what she had lost and what I had won,” we wait for it…wait for the penny to drop…"[Lina] was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was as full of varied and foolish adventures as much as mine, and that time slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other very so often to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other."Ferrante deserves the attention she has had from this series of novels. It is world-class literature that deserves a place in the pantheon. I am looking forward to Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.For those following this series, or those put off by the covers, please note there is a debate raging in literary circles about just this topic: The Atlantic magazine contributor Emily Harnett wrote a piece explaining the publisher's point in deciding on the covers as they are.

  • Julie Christine
    2019-02-09 19:01

    It is the early-mid 1960s and Naples is experiencing an economic and cultural renaissance: the post-war boom has created a new consumer class, with fancy shoe boutiques staffed by pretty girls dressed up like Jackie O. In university halls, students speak of the two Germanys, Indochina, nuclear arms, and Communism. But not everything has changed. In the darker neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, where violence is an accepted means of communication and a woman’s worth is tallied by first her father, then her husband, tradition vies with progress. It is here we left Lila on her wedding day, at the end of Book One of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, My Brilliant Friend. Elena watched from the sidelines as her best friend sashayed into a life of comfort, buoyed by her husband Stefano’s economic success. But how quickly fortunes shift. Book Two, The Story of a New Name, is still Lina and Elena’s story. The new name belongs to the girl who exchanged her father’s name for her husband’s yet remains confined to the old way of life, while a new life is granted to the plump, shy, awkward, girl who is able to continue her education. Womanhood awaits them both, but we see how conflicted Elena has become, feeling ever in the shadow of Lila’s magnetic beauty. The day of her marriage, Elena helps Lila prepare: I washed her with slow, careful gestures, first letting her squat in the tub, then asking her to stand up: I still have in my ears the sound of the dripping water, and the impression that the copper of the tub had a consistency not different from Lila’s flesh, which was smooth, solid, calm. I had a confusion of feelings and thoughts: embrace her, weep with her, kiss her, pull her hair, laugh, pretend to sexual experience and instruct her in a learned voice, distancing her with words just at the moment of greatest closeness.But in the end there was only the hostile thought that I was washing her, from her hair to the soles of her feet, early in the morning, just so that Stefano could sully her in the course of the night. I imagined her naked as she was at that moment, entwined with her husband, in the bed in the new house, while the train clattered under their windows and his violent flesh entered her with a sharp blow, like the cork pushed by the palm into the neck of a wine bottle. And it suddenly seemed to me that the only remedy against the pain I was feeling, that I would feel, was to find a corner secluded enough so that Antonio could do to me, at the same time, the exact same thing.I posited that My Brilliant Friend is a novel of power; The Story of a New Name is about trust. In the opening scene, set some fifty years after Lila’s wedding, Elena betrays her friend’s trust, saying “I couldn’t stand feeling Lila on me and in me, even now that I was esteemed myself, even now that I had a life outside of Naples.” She dumps the journals Lila had given her for safekeeping into the Arno River, but then she turns back and tells Lila’s story to us, her readers, so that we’ll remember Lila, and the old neighborhood, forever. Lila and Stefano’s marriage is built on sand, but it is a castle they manage to rebuild over and over again in the early years. Lila trusts her cleverness and beauty will protect what she most wants: control; Stefano trusts his position as husband and provider will allow him the same. Elena knows better than to put her faith in Lila, but she does, time and again, until her best friend shatters her heart. The young man whose affections she has been pining for since childhood turns his brooding eye to Lila, the young bride. The affair becomes Lila’s undoing, while at the same time Elena begins her slow rise, far from Naples and whirlpool of tradition and family. She escapes Lila’s fate:I saw clearly the mothers of the old neighborhood. They were nervous, they were acquiescent. They were silent, with tight lips and stooping shoulders, or they yelled terrible insults at the children who harassed them. Extremely thin, with hollow eyes and cheeks, or with broad behinds, swollen ankles, heavy chests, they lugged shopping bags and small children who clung to their skirts. They had been consumed by the bodies of husbands, fathers, brothers, whom they ultimately came to resemble, because of their labors or the arrival of old age, of illness. When did that transformation begin? With housework? With pregnancies? With beatings? But Elena cannot escape the dream that is Lila, the girl whom she knows to be more intelligent, quicker, more articulate—the real scholar. Elena handwrites a draft of a novel and offers it as a university graduation gift to a boyfriend, who passes it along to his mother, a book editor. And suddenly she is swept up in success. But it is Lila’s spirit that wrote Elena's book, even though it came from Elena’s hands. Elena discovers The Blue Fairy, a short novel Lila had written as a child, and realizes Lila’s words and voice are the secret heart of my book. Anyone who wanted to know what gave it warmth and what the origin was of the strong but invisible thread that joined the sentences would have had to go back to that child’s packet, ten notebook pages, . . . the brightly colored cover, the title and not even a signature. And in a gesture of trust and love for her friend, Elena returns the story to Lila, admitting, “I read it again and discovered that, without realizing it, I’ve always had it in my mind. That’s where my book comes from.” It is the story of a new name. Yet would seem too late for redemption from Elena. Lila is lost, a fallen woman, the transformation Elena observed and dreaded a few years earlier in the wives of the old neighborhood has overcome her friend. Lila tosses her story into the flames and Elena leave Naples. But Elena and Lila are still young, only in their mid-twenties, and there is still so much of their stories yet to tell.

  • Manny
    2019-01-26 17:13

    [From L'amie prodigieuse]Choice of roleYou can be either a bad girl or a good girl. When you have played a bit more, you can even try combining these two roles! See "Advanced options" below.Bad girlIf you are a bad girl, you will be able to speak your mind and express your sexuality freely, but you will be beaten, raped and called a whore and a witch. You may also be subjected to other punishments, such as being disowned by your family or forced into a dangerous and poorly remunerated job. Good girlIf you are a good girl, you will be grudgingly accepted by society, but you will have to work twenty-four hours a day to learn the complex rules you need to follow, you will constantly feel that you are a fraud and an imposter, and you will need to sleep with people who do not attract you while pretending that they do. Goal of the gameYour goal is to have children and live long enough to see them grow up only mildly damaged. You will find that this is harder than it sounds, but that's all part of the fun!Advanced optionsWhen you have played the game a few times, you may want to try combining the bad girl and good girl roles. You may for example be a bad girl who gets married and tries to stay faithful to her husband, or a good girl who writes a daring and truthful novel about her life. Note however that none of these strategies will actually let you win.Useful tipsIf you decide to get serious about WOMAN™, there are several excellent books which will help you improve your skills. Elena Ferrante's series is particularly good. Go out and buy a copy tomorrow, you won't regret it!WARNINGSpending too much time playing WOMAN™ can be very depressing. Make sure you take frequent breaks, and remember that it's only a game.Enjoy![To Celle qui fuit et celle qui reste]

  • Marita
    2019-02-03 21:20

    "Your name is no longer Cerullo. You are Signora Carracci and you must do as I say." By changing her name, Lila/Lina had changed her whole life. For the worse. From the frying pan into the fire. "What have I done, she thought, dazed by wine, and what is this gold circle, this glittering zero I’ve stuck my finger in." She had changed her name, and exchanged it for a web of lies, a different level of violence. The first inclination she had came from those shoes. Marcello Solara was shod in those shoes at her wedding, and it changed everything. By marrying Stefano who had she really married and what had she let herself in for? In fact, who had Stefano married, who was this petulant teenager? Beautiful, yes, but also mean, spiteful, wilful, generous and clever. "The more Lina is surrounded by affection and admiration, the crueler she can become. She’s always been like that.”In the novel there are many toxic relationships: between partners, between parents, those of children and their parents, siblings, business associates, etc. Violence is constantly lurking under the surface. The relationships are complex, fragile. There are moments of love and tenderness, but there are also lies, deceit, jealousy and unrequited love.Elena Greco (and by extension the reader) learns from a set of notebooks about Lila's true thoughts, feelings and experiences. Lila finds herself trapped by her background, by the society they live in and its values, by marriage, by social and business connections. A society in which: "You pay and the contacts do you a favor.” Lila suffers much anguish, and there is a very clever episode in which (view spoiler)[an enlarged photo of herself is to be displayed on the wall of the new store. However, she insists on altering it first, cutting it and removing sections of her image with black tape. Her rage is expresssed as well as her fragmentation and her desire to 'erase' herself. But, it also becomes an amazing piece of art, yet again reflecting her brilliance. Shortly after, as her friends argue about Lila, the panel with her fragmented photo bursts into flames. (hide spoiler)]Lila eventually has to ponder which is better - a life of luxury with a brute or an impoverished existence with a kind, decent man? On the other hand, Elena continues her schooling. In so doing, she encounters a new world. A world in which arguments are discussions of thoughts, ideas, socio-political issues, etc. rather than abuse shouted to neighbours from an apartment window. She achieves success, but as a tall poppy she also receives scorn, ridicule and resentment. "It never occurred to me, as, in fact, it had on other occasions, that she had felt the need to humiliate me in order to better endure her own humiliation." But Elena's passage through life is not a smooth one either. She has to struggle not only with her circumstances, but also her insecurities and her lack of faith in her own abilities.Later Elena is able to reflect on her friendship with Lila, and on the differences between them: "How easy it is to tell the story of myself without Lila: time quiets down and the important facts slide along the thread of the years like suitcases on a conveyor belt at an airport; you pick them up, put them on the page, and it’s done. It’s more complicated to recount what happened to her in those years. The belt slows down, accelerates, swerves abruptly, goes off the tracks. The suitcases fall off, fly open, their contents scatter here and there."By the end of the novel Elena is able to say: (view spoiler)["After such a long time, I really was pleased with myself. I wasn’t yet twenty-three and I had obtained a degree in literature with the highest grade. My father hadn’t gone beyond fifth grade in elementary school, my mother had stopped at second, none of my forebears, as far as I knew, had learned to read and write fluently. It had been an astonishing effort." (hide spoiler)]I was emotionally exhausted after my journey with Elena and her friends. It is a labyrinth of a tale, but it is certainly well worth the effort. I'm glad that I read it in Kindle format, as I was able to liberally highlight passages as I read.Highly recommended.

  • PorshaJo
    2019-02-17 17:13

    Rating a 4.5Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo are friends, and through these books, you get the details of their lives and their friendship. You do not get a glimpse of their lives, you hear the minutiae of their daily lives. And you know's utterly fascinating. This is a book to be savored slowly. There really is so much going on and there are so many people from the neighborhood that move in and out of the story. The story packs in so much - love, betrayal, friendship, marriage, adultery, internal conflict, abuse, suicide, and so much more.Book two in this amazing series picks up right where book one ends, with the marriage of Lila to Stefano. And it moves right into their wedding night, onto the honeymoon, and into their daily lives. The girls go away to the beach for the summer for Lila to swim so she can get and stay pregnant. Doctors orders. I'll not discuss anymore of what happens and spoil this story for anyone.I highly suggest these books to anyone to read. They are so detailed, fascinating, and just beautiful. I listened to this one via audio and the narrator is wonderful. Normally, I loose interest in a series of books. But not with this one. I just got the print of book three (my library doesn't have audio of book three, darn). There are a lot of people in the books, and some have nicknames, or various nicknames. So at times, it can be hard to remember who is who. In the print books, there is a sort of family tree of the neighborhood which explains everyone and how they might be connected. I did not want to read the books back to back and as there are only four books, I want them to last. But I don't wait to wait for the next, now that I *know* who is who. I see myself reading these books again and again.I went to my library yesterday and picked up book three in the series. The librarian had no idea about the book or the series. I was shocked. I told her all about she could suggest this wonderful series to many others to enjoy.

  • Perry
    2019-01-30 14:25

    Phenomenal Favola--Due Amici"Whenever this world is cruel to meI got you to help me forgiveOoh you make me live now honeyOoh you make me live."You're My Best Friend, Queen, 1975This is the second of a tetralogy called the "Neopolitan Novels," by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante (pseudonym), who says she considers the four volumes to constitute one novel. The books are so popular in Italy that the periodical publications have regularly engaged in a game of speculation on the author's true identity.The books center on the lives and friendship of two girls from Naples, Italy, Elena Greco (called sometimes "Lenù") and Raffaella ("Lila") Cerullo. Both are intelligent and precocious young students in the first book called My Brilliant Friend, which takes them up to 16 years old. This one, The Story of a New Name carries them to their mid-20s. Elena is the narrator, but it's truly about both of them, and all that relationship entails through the years, including intellectual and sexual competition and envy, and support for each other as they attempt to rise above their poor, vulgar and sometimes violent neighborhood on the Naples outskirts. In some ways, Ms. Ferrante's writing reminds me of that by the Norwegian Karl Ove Knaussgard in his six-volume My Struggle, so conversational and existential without being overly gloomy. I can't pin down exactly why but I find these books absolutely absorbing and fascinating. I want to keep reading... and reading.... It's like a dip into the soul of the authors, their daily lives, and the intriguing neighborhood interrelationships, friendships, as the authors call you forth, in examining their own lives, to examine yours, your childhood, childhood friends, being an adult, growing older, how sad things turn out for many who could not escape their surroundings, your recollections of certain things but haziness on others, the meaning of art and lit in life and to a full life, the meaning of your upbringing in your life, the ways you are like and differ from your parents when you become a parent, the place you grew up, how it felt to be isolated, in love with someone, to lose them to another, in lust, puppy love, your first sexual encounter, how you felt upon seeing someone again or for the first time in years and years. The Neopolitan novels are full of good and evil and eccentric characters. I found the first novel a little tedious at times because it mostly involved elementary age kids. Unlike the Karl Ove novels, it is necessary to read these in order. For this second one, I was all in, finding it simply jaw-dropping at times. I'm already halfway through the 3d now, I've enjoyed them so much.Highly recommended.

  • Melanie
    2019-02-01 19:11

    "Partly because her work describes domestic experiences – such as vivid sexual jealousy and other forms of shame – that are underexplored in fiction, Ferrante’s reputation is soaring, especially among women (Zadie Smith, Mona Simpson and Jhumpa Lahiri are fans). Her writing has a powerful intimacy – as if her characters, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, are the lenses through which we read our own minds. The novelist Claire Messud emailed, “When you write to me and say you love her work, I have a moment where I think, ‘But … Elena is my friend! My private relationship with her, so intense and so true, is one that nobody else can fully know!’ It’s strange – and rare – to feel proprietary of a book, or a writer, in that way.”""In a 2003 written interview, Ferrante said, “The true reader, I think, searches not for the brittle face of the author in flesh and blood” but instead for “the naked physiognomy that remains in every effective word”. Whoever Ferrante is, in the novel she is free to invent, to fabricate, to play, to revisit old wounds, to be less than beautiful. This is what writing can do: create a space for the savage within, for the contradictory and the wild, and make it real. There may be no consolation except the art itself, but what a pleasure for those of us who get to read it. I would not want to forget what Ferrante herself so eloquently stated in one of her letters: the mystery of literature is in some ways its difference from the person who wrote it, the unfathomable effacement of self that leads to its creation."Meghan O'Rourke in The GuardianTo create a space for the savage within, for the contradictory and the wild, and make it real.I could not express what these Neapolitan novels do any better than Meghan O'Rourke does in her fiercely intelligent and perceptive review of Elena Ferrante's novels for the Guardian. You will simply never experience women characters in this way anywhere else. You get to read and feel the female psyche with more vibrancy and complexity and beauty than you can ever hope to find in a literary work. And the novels never feel literary. The characters feel as if they are coming into being right in front of your eyes, sentence by sentence, page by page, in a electrifying mess of living matter.One of the most thrilling reading experiences I've had in recent years.Meghan O'Rourke's review can be read in full here:

  • Teresa
    2019-02-20 17:03

    This Europa editions' cover is silly, even more unsuitable than the cover of the first book of the series. Ferrante's focus is not on romance at all -- there is nothing romantic about the desperate, grasping lives these people lead -- her scope is epic: social and political.In my review of My Brilliant Friend I noted that flight was not yet an option for the girls. Even if it becomes so, the impossibility of fleeing your origins hovers over them in this installment. While reading one section, I was reminded of the 1997 movie The Boxer (starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson) with its masculine code-of-"honor" within its own working-class neighborhood, a code that uses beatings to terrorize its own.As with the first novel, the ending arrives abruptly. With both books, there are several blank pages following the end: a trick so you won't slow down as I might've, not wanting to get to the end yet; or a reminder that there's more to come? I'm not sure I will get to the third book as quickly as I did this, as the translated fourth--and last--is not due here until September, forcing me to pace myself.*Added July 14, 2016:I just came across this article about the intentional 'badness' of the covers. (That hadn't even crossed my mind.)'Ferrante’s publisher even expressed concern to Slate that “many people didn’t understand the game we we’re playing, that of, let’s say, dressing an extremely refined story with a touch of vulgarity.” Certainly, readers aren’t required to enjoy the cloying sensibility of the images just because they’re intentionally bad, and because Ferrante herself chose them.'

  • Carmo
    2019-01-24 18:11

    As palavras parecem pipocas a querer saltar da minha boca para fora, mas para não saírem atabalhoadas tal é a excitação, vamos resumir a coisa ao mínimo possível: desde as leituras do Zafon que não ficava assim alucinada e envolvida com uma história e umas personagens que se colaram a mim dia e noite!Venham os próximos!

  • Doug Bradshaw
    2019-02-13 20:17

    Rarely have I experienced a more personal and honest picture of someone’s private inner thoughts, the mechanics of friendship and growing up, with all of the pressures of deeply ingrained habits and customs of a different culture and generation: If you are chosen by a young male from a successful family and asked to marry, who are you to turn him down? It doesn’t matter that you aren’t attracted to him. If you were to say no, your father would beat you and disown you. But don’t worry, over time you will learn to love him and you will have all of the things in life that are important, a modern roomy apartment, jewelry, beautiful clothes and money to spend on frivolous things. Here’s a little sample of the writing. While I was reading it, I thought it felt a little like it was a translation and yet, over time, as I got used to it, I just loved the writing:“They began to hold hands without hiding it, with an offensive shamelessness, as if they had decided that with us it wasn’t worth pretending. They often quarreled jokingly, then grabbed each other, hit each other, held each other tight, tumbled on the sand together. When we were walking, if they spotted an abandoned hut, an old bath house reduced to its foundations, a path that got lost among the wild vegetation, they decided like children to go exploring and didn’t invite us to follow. They went off with him in the lead, she behind, in silence. When they lay in the sun, they lessened the distance between them as much as possible. At first they were satisfied with the slight contact of shoulders, their arms, legs, feet just grazing. Later, returning from that interminable daily swim, they lay beside each other on ’s towel, which was bigger, and soon, with a natural gesture, ---- put his arm around her shoulders, she rested her head on his chest. They even, once, went so far as to kiss on the lips, a light, quick kiss. I thought: she’s mad, they’re mad. If someone from Naples who knows----sees them?” “Her words were very beautiful, mine are only a summary. If she had confided it to me then, in the taxi, I would have suffered even more, because I would have recognized in her fulfillment the reverse of my emptiness. I would have understood that she had come to something that I thought I knew, that I had believed I felt for him, and that, instead, I didn’t know, and perhaps would never know, except in a weak, muted form. I would have understood that she wasn’t playing a summer game for fun but that a violent feeling was growing inside her and would overwhelm her.”This second book takes place mainly when the two main female characters are between the ages of 16 and 23, when one of the two gets married at a young age to a successful businessman who gives her all of the material niceties, while the other struggles to ignore these things, the more expected and normal path of getting married and having babies, and sacrifices to finish high school and then attend the university. Through all of this, the two remain very close, are affected by each other in almost every way, second guessing their own lives and wondering if the other has made the right decisions. This book is not a stand alone book. It needs to be read after reading the first book. I’m on to the third book now. I hope you’ll read them.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2019-02-08 18:21

    Stayed up until 4am to finish. So worth it. Will review when I can collect my thoughts (and get some sleep).

  • Skorofido Skorofido
    2019-02-01 18:11

    ΤΟ ΝΕΟ ΟΝΟΜΑ – ΕΛΕΝΑ ΦΕΡΡΑΝΤΕΔεύτερο μέρος της τετραλογίας της Νάπολης κι εδώ συναντάμε όλα τα καλά παιδιά που γνωρίσαμε και στο πρώτο μέρος «Η καλύτερη μου φίλη»… η Λενού, η Λίλα, ο Στέφανο, ο Ρίνο κλπ,κλπ… Κάποιοι παίζουν πλέον σημαντικότερο ρόλο, κάποιοι πηγαίνουν στα παρασκήνια… Σ’αυτό το βιβλίο, πρωταγωνίστριες εννοείται πως είναι πάλι τα δυο κορίτσια, τώρα όμως τα πράγματα έχουν αλλάξει, η Λίνα είναι μια αξιοσέβαστη παντρεμένη γυναίκα ετών 16 ενώ η Λενού συνεχίζει το σχολείο… Το βιβλίο πιάνει τις ηλικίες από 16 έως άντε πες 23…Η ιστορία πραγματικά συνεχίζει από εκεί που είχε μείνει, χωρίς επαναλήψεις και κόντρα επαναλήψεις που συνήθως συναντάμε στις τριλογίες, τετραλογίες, πενταλογίες και πάει λέγοντας και τούτο ομολογώ πως μου άρεσε…. Εάν αγαπήσατε το πρώτο βιβλίο, θα αγαπήσετε κι αυτό… αν δεν μαγευτήκατε από το πρώτο βιβλίο, μην περιμένετε ούτε εδώ να βρείτε τη μαγεία…Ομολογώ πως αυτό το βιβλίο μου άρεσε περισσότερο. Οι χαρακτήρες είχαν βρει πλέον τον βηματισμό τους κι εγώ ήξερα που πατούσαν… έρωτες, προδοσίες, ανησυχίες, κόντρες κι έξτρα κόντρες, αντιζηλίες και μια ναπολιτάνικη νότα φτώχειας και ασυδοσίας που σ’αυτό το βιβλίο μου φάνηκε πολύ περισσότερο από το πρώτο…Με κούρασε ολίγον το σκηνικό στην Ίσκια, το νησάκι των διακοπών, θεώρησα πως οι σελίδες παρατράβηξαν σαν ένα από αυτά τα ατελείωτα παιδικά καλοκαίρια που μας βαρούσε ο ήλιος κατακέφαλα, οι μάνες μας μας έβαζαν με το ζόρι να κοιμηθούμε τα μεσημέρια, ώσπου στο τέλος μπάνιο, παιχνίδια και ξεκούραση δεν μας έλεγαν τίποτα…Ακόμα δεν μπορώ να καταλάβω, τι είναι αυτό που με τραβάει σ’αυτή την τετραλογία… δεν είναι αμάν το λογοτεχνικό κείμενο, δεν είναι αμάν η ιστορία (δεν υπάρχει τούτο το σασπένς – αμάν τι θα γίνει στην επόμενη σελίδα – ο δολοφόνος ήταν ο μπάτλερ…), δεν είναι αμάν οι φιλοσοφικοί στοχασμοί… είναι μάλλον η αίσθηση πως διαβάζεις ή ζεις από κοντά την ιστορία μιας φίλης, μιας γνωστής ή ακόμα και τη δική σου ιστορία και βυθίζεσαι αποχαυνωμένος σ’αυτήν… (τι είπα πάλι ο ποιητής…)Εντάξει, τώρα εδώ που φτάσαμε, θα διαβάσω το τρίτο και το τέταρτο, δόξα να ‘χει ο Γιαραμπί…Βαθμολογία: 8/10

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-02-06 17:12

    I read the first book in this series, My Brilliant Friend, over a year ago, but always thought I liked it enough to read the next one sometime. I just wasn't in a hurry. (You can read my review of book one here.)I'm certainly glad I finally dug into this one. Where the first book was about childhood and adolescence, with the microcosmic world of girlhood friendships (and conflicts) and aspirations, this book focuses on the two women, Lila and Elena, in their upper teen years. For Lila, this is an early marriage. For Elena, this is schooling. I think for both of them, there is this realization of the realities of the world they are actually living in, from the poverty to the place of violence within families... there is a moment I remember where the way they see the women in their little village changes when they realize they also are likely to end up trapped. "I saw clearly the mothers of the old neighborhood. They were nervous, they were acquiescent. They were silent, with tight lips and stooping shoulders, or they yelled terrible insults at the children who harassed them. Extremely thin, with hollow eyes and cheeks, or with broad behinds, swollen ankles, heavy chests, they lugged shopping bags and small children who clung to their skirts and wanted to be picked up. And, good God, they were ten, at most twenty years older than me. .. They had been consumed by the bodies of husbands, fathers, brothers, whom they ultimately came to resemble, because of their labors or the arrival of old age, of illness. When did that transformation begin? With housework? With pregnancies? With beatings? Would Lila be misshapen like Nunzia? ... And would by body, too, one day be ruined by the emergence of not only my mother's body but my father's? And would all that I was learning at school dissolve, would the neighborhood prevail again, the cadences, the manners, everything be confounded in black mire?"Elena struggles to fit in; her romances don't work out and Lila even as a married woman seems to have more allure. Lila doesn't struggle to fit in, and it is almost worse for her. She does not make friends with her new family and they become an entirely new set of enemies, in many ways. "That people, even more than things, lost their boundaries and overflowed into shapelessness is what most frightened Lila in the course of her life."What I always love about Ferrante, something I particularly noticed since I was also reading another book about two female friends as they grow up that I didn't connect with nearly as well, is that she somehow provides us with just enough of the inner workings of the characters to really feel their agony, but keeps enough of it from us for some of their decisions to seem unpredictable. They are so human, they are so defined by their surroundings, and she captures how guilt can keep people in poverty even if they would have the ability to move upwards and outwards. The violence in this community remains as startling as it did in the first book."For your whole life you love people and you never really know who they are."As Elena expands her circles to intellectual discourse in Pisa, an interesting topic comes up, a debate of whether or not the USA should be charged with war crimes for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The timing of this book is during and WWII during the 50s and 60s, and it really only shows up in terms of the poverty, the men coming back with unnamed ptsd, and some of the discussions going on. But it is a significant movement forward for Elena, who explores ideas of communism and socialism and anarchy within the rather safe boundaries of the academy.

  • Bianca
    2019-01-29 13:26

    How does one even begin to review this second volume in the Neapolitan series?What an incredible, mesmerising, overwhelming, raw, audacious, intimate novel this is. How masterful Ferrante's writing is, managing to unfold the complexities of life in a poor neighbourhood of Naples in the early 60's, but most importantly, the human complexities, especially of the two female protagonists, Lila and Elena (Lenu). This second instalment picks up where it left off in the previous volume, with Lila being married at only sixteen with the grocer's son, Stefano Carracci, who's rich. Now Lila has what she and Lenu were dreaming of as kids - wealth. Will that bring her that elusive happiness or at least contentment? Nobody is more twisted, brilliant and difficult to understand than Lila. The fact that she's so beautiful only amplifies those traits. Women are jealous and hate her. Men want her. But they're only dazzled by her beauty. Beauty can be both a blessing and a curse.Elena (Lenu) is still our narrator. She studies hard, determined to get out of the neighbourhood. She only loves two people, Lila and the intelligent, brooding, Nino Sarratore. She wants his admiration and enjoys discussing politics and having high-level conversations with him. He's like no other men she's ever encountered. Or maybe he's not that different, after all ...There's so little and yet so much that goes on in this book. The narration is somewhat detached, but it carries so much weight, with incredibly nuanced emotions, thoughts and feelings. While no two people read and understand a book the same way, this novel is even more likely to be experienced differently by each and every reader - which makes it even more special.I personally am so enthralled by this book, it's almost overwhelming. I really don't have the words ...

  • Helene Jeppesen
    2019-02-18 17:08

    Another great narrative that continues the story of Lila's and Elena's friendship. In this book, tensions between them become even more strained as they grow up to become adults. The dynamics between them is very interesting to read about, and I liked this novel just as much as the first one in the series.

  • Dajana
    2019-02-11 21:15

    Dan i po, 500 strana, i nešto me boli u stomaku.

  • Lydia
    2019-02-07 19:11

    I'm a lonely Elena Ferrante lover; won't you join me in my rabid admiration of this phenomenal Italian novelist? This book blew me away. It is poignant, enraging, sad, triumphant, inspiring, devastating. It continues the story (from My Brilliant Friend) of two besties in 1950s Naples who take (and I won't say choose) different paths in life. One escapes the brutal poverty and gratuitous violence of the neighborhood, the other sticks her toe into different lives but cannot escape her fate. Please read this book because I want to talk to you about it.

  • Antonomasia
    2019-02-11 21:22

    I continue to be surprised by my enjoyment of this series, and it continues to seem like a better written version of a commercial fiction plot - I've now realised, specifically the working-class-girl-who-became-a-writer story that I assumed sat between the covers of many of the Helen Forrester and Catherine Cookson novels which packed the adults' shelves in public libraries during my childhood. There's sometimes an attention to detail of characters' thoughts and reactions reminiscent of Tolstoy (Tolstoy is not, to me, the pinnacle of all novelling that he is to some) and I find the writing nowhere near as bad as its detractors say, nor quite as superlative as do Ferrante's biggest fans. (New litfic hits attract these extremes of opinion, viz. Knausgaard, or A Little Life.) I still maintain there's something unusual in these books: the gravitas with which the characters are treated, the emphasis on their intelligence that most Brits and many Americans would be embarrassed to write, the realism, combined with the compulsiveness... it's very nineteenth century.Though without any of the generalisations that plague Victorian novels. She is always focused on her characters' experiences, never launching into social commentaries about the times, the generation, men and women, types of people. (John Waters' widely quoted characterisation, "Elena Ferrante: the best angry woman writer ever!" - probably an off-the-cuff remark which he probably didn't know was going to be used, like everywhere - makes it sound as if these are books full of generalised rants, more feminist polemic than novel.) Actually, anything remotely close to that is always clearly rooted in the experiences of those she's met. (Perhaps the specificity of her approach helps the books' relative popularity with men who wouldn't necessarily prioritise reading a non-fiction book on feminism. This observation could simply be a case of whose comments I notice, of course, but on Goodreads and in the press, I always seem to be seeing men praise Ferrante's writing. Meanwhile I looked at Twitter this week to find award longlist announcements, and then read several bloggers' and publishers' feeds noticing that in those quarters - based on, ooh, 3 or 4 examples, there was more of a traditional gender divide.)If one assumes that like Elena-the-character, Ferrante-the-writer did not grow up reading newspapers, it's easy to see that as the root of this approach of relating experiences rather than social commentary: she didn't grow up surrounded by media information about what others en masse were supposedly doing, or conditioned to it as a normative way of thinking and writing, never knowing any different. Historians of the British 1960s often now say that "the sixties", i.e. Swinging London and the counterculture, was the lifestyle of only a small number, whilst most of the population continued to live much in the way of the [stereotyped] 1950s. Very occasional mentions of fashion or conversations about film, may remind the reader that the events of this novel are contemporaneous with the glamour of Federico Fellini and Sophia Loren, but Ferrante never has to say outright that these lives - including those of serious-minded university students - were far removed from that world. It is telling that, early in the book, Lila's picture is admired by neorealist Vittorio di Sica and not by Fellini, although she sounds as glamorous in her fashions as any of the latter's heroines, and in temperament is easy to imagine as one of the divas besieging Marcello Mastroianni in 8 ½. Lila is still stuck in the tough neighbourhood of her upbringing, even when she [physically] isn't. It's easy to forget the characters' ages in this book, and I wondered if some of the more critical takes on them did. This is about 16-23 year olds, who - especially the younger ones - in contemporary Anglo-American culture are almost expected to be yelling and slamming doors and behaving recklessly (now bolstered by popular neuroscience). Elena may be steady and sensible (with exactly enough minor rebellions to be normal) but most of her Naples contemporaries are volatile, as one would expect from a bunch of teenagers, who not only are at a difficult age, but have grown up in a violent, macho environment. Identification (or otherwise) with the characters has become such a talking point that even an LRB review of the final volume opens with it. (I won’t be reading the whole article without reading the book.) In the first book, although my life took a different path from Lila’s after elementary school, I saw more of myself in her than in Elena. In book two this expanded from mere identification into finding her an insight into others. She "was”, at various points not in chronological order, an old friend of rather personality who found that her intellect had been affected by some bad antidepressants and whose circumstances weren’t conducive to rebuilding; (view spoiler)[her focus on her child and later her studying and loyalty to her class origins, the continual tension between the idea of being ordinary and of being remarkable, reminded me of more than one ex (hide spoiler)]. Perhaps most memorably of all, she was also an ancestor: one remembered principally as a battleaxe, but based on certain stories I’d always had the feeling that her early adult life included scenes of violence like those in the first few chapters. (Probably many of us are descended from such circumstances, we simply don’t know the specifics if they were further in the past.) Those scenes were far more than usually shocking because by then the reader has known Lila for about 400 pages, since she was a small child. It is terrible to see both the intimate detail of what happened and her power taken from her. In the past few years, I’ve run into several historical novels – another being Small Island - in which, as in Ferrante, oppressive (not always violent) relationships occur not when the woman married a man she found remarkable and fell in love with, and who turned bad, but perhaps even more depressingly, when he was a compromise candidate, an apparently placid or useful ticket out of a difficult situation - perhaps one who realised he had been used and grew resentful - and she never really had much fun or passion at any point. So much of what I like about Elena and Lila - their confidence/arrogance, the strong sense of their individuality, the emphasis on intellectual experience – corresponds with what I connected with in the work of novelists often regarded as very ‘male’, Philip Roth as one example. (It was intriguing to find out later that Ferrante had mentioned Portnoy’s Complaint in an interview; the original is in the FT and paywalled.) There is also the way that characters sometimes see themselves as in control of a situation where many fourth-wave feminists would consider them victims. (view spoiler)[e.g. when Elena decides to lose her virginity with Sarratore; she later looks back on it as an unpleasant experience; but in the moment she enjoys it – how many times have I seen women on social media saying that doesn’t happen in response to some storyline? – and she always knows she decided to do it. The character’s disgust for a person with whom they’ve just had casual sex with, and whom they didn’t fancy much, seems almost archetypal of those oft-criticised male writers. (hide spoiler)] And when the old teacher Oliviera asks about a book being read and ignores a character’s baby, it isn’t implied this is wrong as it would be in almost anything else written by women, even those who would like it not to be wrong. Things like this, the atypical things, are what keep me reading, and are what make the Neapolitan novels unusual among soapy stories. These days, the gender terminology of cis/queer etc has made me resigned to the fact that perhaps many people do inhabit silos of gender identification, and though I can’t help but think of that as limiting, I’ve also never understood what it’s like and thus belong in a different category. (And, whilst accepting the existence of the phenomenon, no longer so insistent that others should change, remain on some level bewildered as to why one might connect with Ferrante’s characters whilst [link may be NSFW, words only]abhorring male ones with similar traits.) I don’t like the “who is Elena Ferrante?” circus, but I would be less surprised than some if the author did turn out to be a man; for some of the scenes it would be an uncommon talent, yet only parallel to Dane Naja-Marie Aidt’s talent for writing men, which she says emerged not only from herself, but from having spent a lot of time in otherwise all-male family situations. The premise of the series could be, what if one had the personality and talent of those brilliant, arrogant male writer-characters (often around the same age as Ferrante's 1940s-born protagonists) but was born a woman in a sexist, violent environment? Whoever wrote these books, that's become one way I like looking at them. But a couple of weeks ago, noticing a book by a middle-aged male literary Italian author from the same publisher, I did wonder for a minute…Perhaps what I’ve learnt most from these books is the difference in embarking on university and adult life not knowing “the map of prestige” as Elena describes it, especially being unfamiliar with the media, not realising how people, institutions and events are connected, who one might need to know to get somewhere, what is in or out in ideas and culture, not only fashion. This is mentioned in passing in countless other books, but never so much what it was like in detail and how big it was. It’s something I’ll never know as newspapers, because they were on the floor and coffee tables, were always within reach even before I could read, and I saw news as frequently as I saw children’s TV. (I was so much the opposite, so much a media junkie, that even at university I was frustrated that most people didn’t think the same things were as important – the things the papers said were important.) What she describes, when compared with what I experienced, is almost tantamount to having a sense missing. Growing up more quickly than is typical for educated Anglo-Americans now – marriage and responsible work in their early twenties or late teens – these characters have lived so much and taken up almost 900 pages and they are not even 25, most having never travelled more than a few dozen miles from the place they grew up. I really want to get on with the next instalment, but have other books to finish first – and most likely that will banish any possible encroachment of monotony: like many addictive or compulsive activities, these books make you want more now, even whilst knowing a short break would reinvigorate the experience.

  • Ellie
    2019-01-29 13:24

    The Story of a New Name is the second in Elena Ferrante's Neopolatan series (intended to be eventually, I believe, four books, three of which have appeared so far).My Brilliant Friend introduced us to Lila and Elena, two young girls growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Naples, Italy. The two are friends, a relationship that is a complicated mixture of affection, need, hostility, and competitiveness. In other words, a real friendship between two very real females.The Story of a New Name takes up the story of the girls, now in their late teens and follows them into their early twenties. Lila is trapped in the class in which the girls were born while Elena has moved up; however, Elena feels like an imposter and constantly deals with feelings of being a fraud that rise from a different class, one despised or at least looked down upon by the university people she is now surrounded with. Lila remains a complicated touchstone for Elena, someone she is always (in her mind) seeking to defeat, outshine while at the same time feeling constantly inferior to her friend's natural brilliance and intense honesty.Elena's struggles to leave the poverty of her childhood and be accepted by a more sophisticated, educated community is vividly depicted and still seems valid today-it is difficult to leave one's roots even to "do better." To rise in the world means to leave everything and everyone familiar behind, even your own younger self, and to become almost rootless and without what feels like a genuine self. Life can feel like a constant performance with the threat of exposure as a fraud present at every moment.The story also portrays the conflict of women struggling with society's expectations of them and their uneasy efforts to come to terms with these expectations-either by conforming to them or defying them. Often, the result is a combination of both.The writing is spare and powerful. The characters are so real I feel I could go see them. Actually, they're more real than that since we rarely know anyone as well as we come to know Elena. We know Lila through Elena's eyes but she also jumps off the page as a full-fledged human being.I love Ferrante. Her writing is amazing and I can't wait to read the next book. Although I preferred My Brilliant Friend to Story, I loved both so much my preference can't be reflected in my rating. I think partly it's because I'm partial to childhood narratives.I strongly recommend Ferrante to everyone. It seems to be people either hate her or love her but I think everyone should read at least one of her works.

  • Elina
    2019-01-23 16:01

    ΚΑΤΑΠΛΗΚΤΙΚΟ! Συνεχίζω ακάθεκτη στο επόμενο!