The Neopolitan Novels
I first heard about the Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante from the legendary writer, Erica Jong, who claimed it was some of the best fiction she’d ever read. I received the four novel set as a gift over the holidays and tucked them away in the corner of my bookshelf. The unfortunate, romance-novel/self-help/teen fiction-style covers made me doubt these works could be serious fiction worthy of being the best of anything. Well, how wrong I was.
One rainy afternoon, I cracked open My Brilliant Friend, the first in the series and haven’t been able to put the books down. I binge read the first three in one week and even downloaded an audible version so I could continue listening on my commute. Each book is a little over 300 pages. It’s a commitment but I am utterly transfixed. These novels are an epic masterpiece–a staggering saga about the struggles of friendship, family, class, culture, politics, corruption, poverty, violence, sex, love, and feminism centering on the heart-wrenching rivalry between two girls who meet as 8 year olds and together span the late 1950s in post-Fascist Italy to current times. Even more mysterious is the pseudonymous author who writes under the nom de plume, Elena Ferrante. Nobody knows who she is and it’s often speculated that the writer is a man.
Sometimes the brutality of domestic violence is hard to take. But if you’re at all familiar with or curious about the struggle to rise above your surroundings and make something better of the hand you were dealt then these books will resonate deeply with you. Certainly one thing you’ll come away with: never judge a book by its cover.