The Story of the Lost Child

by Elena Ferrante

Other authorsAnn Goldstein (Translator.)
Paper Book, 2015




New York, N.Y. : Europa Editions, 2015.


Here is the dazzling saga of two women: the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery, uncontainable Lila. Both are now adults; many of life's great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women's friendship has remained the gravitational center of their lives. Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up-a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received novels. In this final book, she has returned to Naples. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from the city of her birth. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity to the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Nearness to the world she has always rejected only brings her role as its unacknowledged leader into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, and unforgettable. Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous, the story of a lifelong friendship is told with unmatched honesty and brilliance. The four volumes in this series constitute a long, remarkable story that listeners will return to again and again, and every return will bring with it new revelations.… (more)

Media reviews

Ferrante evokes this unforgiving and opaque culture with great power. Its malevolence affects almost everyone.
16 more
Ferrante’s accomplishment in these novels is to extract an enduring masterpiece from dissolving margins, from the commingling of self and other, creator and created, new and old, real and whatever the opposite of real may be.
[Ferrante] has charted, as precisely as possible, the shifts in one person’s feelings and perceptions about another over time, and in so doing has made a life’s inferno recede even as she captures its roar.
Elena brings up every objection to the entire endeavour that a reader might have. If it is so-called auto-fiction then why is it not a mess, like life? If it is the story of a friendship then isn’t every word a betrayal to that friend? If it is sincere and authentic, why is the author’s name on the cover a lie? Borders between autobiography and fiction dissolve, just as the edges of Lila (both her sanity and her body) blur, and Elena provides a continual commentary on this process. Rather than this being annoying and meta, the effect is to make the writing feel alive.
Ferrante is no Balzac or Dickens or Trollope; she is not Zola or Tolstoy. Her narrator does not have the storyteller’s wider vision. Unlike War and Peace, Ferrante’s big book has a narrow lens, and her idea of friendship is more about shared experience than affection.
Ferrante’s writing seems to say something that hasn’t been said before – it isn’t easy to specify what this is – in a way so compelling its readers forget where they are, abandon friends and disdain sleep. It would be enough to have books in which we recognise the truth of women’s lives in all its darkness, but the Neapolitan quartet also has an almost deranging narrative pleasure, delivered in a style that’s more of an admission that the author cares too much about the truth to bother with style.
Like the tough mothers in her books who refuse to coddle their babies, Ferrante might not give us the neatly wrapped finale we crave, but the one she delivers manages to satisfy, even while leaving us wanting more: more details, more closure, more of this fascinating, beguiling Story.
What words do you save? Here's your chance to bring them out, like the silver for the wedding of the first-born: genius, tour de force, masterpiece. They apply to the work of Elena Ferrante, whose newly translated novel "The Story of the Lost Child" is the fourth and final one of her magnificent Neapolitan quartet, a sequence which now seems to me, at least within all that I've read, to be the greatest achievement in fiction of the post-war era.
I am not sure I have read a more frightening account of a friendship, or a more unsentimental view of the uses that human beings have for one another, even in the presence of mutual attachment. “I loved Lila,” as Elena writes. “I wanted her to last. But I wanted it to be I who made her last.”
With the three earlier installments of the quartet (“My Brilliant Friend,” “The Story of a New Name,” “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”) and this stunning final volume, “The Story of the Lost Child,” Ms. Ferrante has turned the stories of Lila and Elena into an extraordinary epic that bridges six decades and unfolds into a portrait of a neighborhood, a city in transition and a country lurching through the second half of the 20th century into the next.
This, Ferrante seems to say, is what happens in the world of women, and though much of the book is devoted to women’s more frequently discussed problems—such as how they are supposed to go out to work and raise the kids at the same time, and, if they do have work, work they care about, how come this still seems to them secondary to their relationship with a man?—it is the exploration of the women’s mental underworld that makes the book so singular an achievement in feminist literature; indeed, in all literature.
The series is a unique achievement that marks its pseudonymous author as one of our most audacious, interesting novelists.
Lost Child does not stand independently and despite the summaries in the Index the uninitiated reader will struggle to understand the story, which begins in medias res, as if Elena were beginning a new sentence rather than a book. Elena herself is not an engaging narrator.
Now, in the final piece, “The Story of the Lost Child,” Ferrante has two mature lives to work with: weddings, divorces, children, affairs, bitter rivalries, successes and failures, regrets, grudges, fears and a few remaining hopes. Learning from the multivolume sagaists who have preceded her, she shows much skill in writing those enormous histories into this narrative about two grown women choosing the paths their adult lives should take.
The breadth of vision makes this final installment feel like the essential volume.
While avid devotees of the Neapolitan series will be gratified by the return of several characters from earlier installments, the need to cover ground in the final volume results in a telescoped delivery of some plot points.
This stunning conclusion further solidifies the Neapolitan novels as Ferrante's masterpiece and guarantees that this reclusive author will remain far from obscure for years to come.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lit_chick
2015, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Hillary Huber

In this final Neapolitan novel, Lila and Elena are in their mid-30s to mid-50s. Life’s whims and joys and disappointments have been experienced – and when tragedy strikes in this final installment, they will know great loss. Still, their friendship remains a central staple in both of their lives, in spite of the different paths they’ve chosen. Elena, who moved to Florence when she married, has now returned to Naples, where she continues to enjoy success as a novelist. Lila, who has become a successful entrepreneur, has never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples, but her personality is somehow mirrored in her proximity to the city: perilous, unmanageable, seductive. As they age, the women continue to clash, drift apart, reconcile, only to clash again – and in the process, Ferrante reveals new facets of their friendship.

In my review of the previous novel, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, I commented that whatever attracted the two women to Nino Sarratore completely escaped me. So I found it humourous and satisfying to see the women’s thinking at last align with mine. Lila, for her part, ignores Sarratore, and even finds his political embarrassments amusing. Elena has this to say (LOL!):

“Then Nino arrived and all he did was talk loudly, joke, even laugh, as if we were not at his mother’s funeral. I found him large, bloated, a big ruddy man with thinning hair who was constantly celebrating himself. Getting rid of him, after the funeral, was difficult. I didn’t want to listen to him or even look at him. He gave me an impression of wasted time, of useless labor, that I feared would stay in my mind, extending into me, into everything.” (Epilogue, Ch 2)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Story of the Lost Child, and commend Ferrante for a fine conclusion to her quartet. I recommend the series highly, and endorse the audiobooks for those who like to listen: Hillary Huber is fabulous!
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels explore, in great depth, the lifelong friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo. The women are two sides of the same coin, and although their lives take them in very different directions and the depth of their friendship waxes and wanes, the magnetic bond between the brings them together time and time again.

In this fourth and final novel, the women mature from their mid-30s into their 50s. Elena has followed the path she set for herself in the first novel and become a successful writer. She also challenges traditional views of motherhood, striving to have a career while raising her children. As always, Lila’s life has been subject to many more twists and turns. Despite her impoverished upbringing and lack of education, she is now a successful businesswoman and has found a supportive partner. She does not hesitate to share her candid opinions with Elena, even (and especially) when they touch on aspects of Elena’s life. Whether she does this out of love or rivalry is left to the reader to decide.

While reading The Story of the Lost Child, I found myself focusing on Ferrante’s literary techniques; the plot carried me along but I was alert to the way the story was being told. For example, the Neapolitan Novels are narrated by Elena, who has proven to be somewhat unreliable. She constantly questions herself, fails to spot signs of trouble or distress in others, and often grossly misinterprets the behavior of those around her. Her narrative is more focused on telling Lila’s story than on making herself look good; Elena’s selfish acts are presented in a matter-of-fact way as if she cannot see the potential consequences of her behavior.

Ferrante also repeatedly shows the good and bad sides of Lila and Elena and the ways that “good” events can have “bad” consequences, and vice versa. Sometimes she revisits a situation from a different vantage point in order to shed new light on it; for example, the “lost child” of the title, a very emotional moment in the novel, became even more so when seen from a different angle. The ending also brought surprises, making me want to re-read the series from the beginning for new details and insights. I love it when that happens and just might do so someday.
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LibraryThing member aileverte
Has anyone noticed that this volume, more than any of the previous installments, is a meta-novel?

I've awaited the fourth volume with some impatience, and delayed reading it by re-reading the third volume. The story rushes through like a fast-moving stream, in a similar way to the earlier volumes, but here I found that the narrative is often mediated through the prism of writing about it. The story of the lost child is doubly distanced through Friendship, the novel within the novel - or rather the act of writing the novel within the novel, because we get it in a summary form, and as much is said about the process of writing as about its contents. I have increasingly had the feeling of mise-en-abime, like in that Escher drawing in which a hand is drawing a hand which is drawing that first hand, so that the longer you look the less you're certain which hand started the drawing, and you know at the same time that there is a third hand, invisible, that drew all this in the first place.

Beneath the surface of a traditional narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end, Ferrante's novel is, well, quite novel, quite innovative. I have to admit that the passages I enjoyed the most were moments where the writing becomes self-reflexive.

That said, I also got the sense that portions of the novel were written in a hurry: very well written, but as if with the desire to complete the series as soon as possible. However, having now read twice volumes 1 through 3, I look forward to seeing how this last volume stands up to re-reading ... when I've gone long enough with Ferrante and feel the need to reread her. Because, I have to admit, I feel quite at home in her novels and in her prose.
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LibraryThing member Larou
The Story of the Lost Child is the fourth and final of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. It circles back to the first volume in at least two regards: it finally catches up with the frame narrative that started off My Brilliant Friend and in it both Raffaella / Lila and Elena / Lena return not only to Naples but to the neighbourhood where they spent their childhood and adolescence.

While the previous novels each spanned several years, this final one spans decades, roughly from the eighties into the 21st century, this incorporating both middle and old age of its protagonists. This shows how close Ferrante’s narrative nestles up against experience, and I mean not only in its content but in the specific way it is told – here, it mirrors the way time passes at varying speeds during different ages; a year is a very long time for a child who has not lived through many, but it passes almost without being noticed for someone who has experienced a considerable amount of them. I think everyone has noticed how time passes faster as we grow older, and Ferrante lets her series of novels reflect that structurally by giving her protagonists’ early years more room than their later ones. I am trying to avoid spoilers here, as this novel still is fairly recent and it continues to deploy a soap-operatic narrative strategy to keep the reader hooked, so I won’t be giving away any details of what is happening in The Story of the Lost Child (not that I am big on plot summaries in any case), and confine myself to saying that the feminist / political element is receding almost completely into the background (almost, but not quite – and the reader should be so sensitized by the previous novels to sense its presence even when the narrative does not shine a spotlight on it) in favour of the private circumstances of and relations between Lila and Lena.

That relationship has been at the core of the novels throughout, of course, and not the least impressive thing to admire about the Neapolitan Novels is how it has been changing constantly. Weirdly, that is something where soap opera and psychological realism meet – the first because it needs to keep the story going and thus can’t allow anything to remain static: basically, soap operas are in constant flux, there are continuous reveals of supposedly hidden sides to a character’s personality which in turn determine their various relationships. While that kind of layer cake psychology (as I like to call it) is not exactly realistic, it might end up looking very much like realism once you follow a relationship over decades as it happens in Ferrante’s novels, a period during which extreme changes in any kind of relationship are realistically almost inevitable. The difference between the two is of course that psychological realism is bound to stay within the bounds of plausibility while a soap opera emphatically is not limited by that – but this difference certainly is gradual rather than absolute, and it may be argued that in the final analysis plausibility is just another literary trope. From whichever perspective you view it, the friendship between LIla and Lena never ceases to fascinate, the way their lives revolves around each other, both drawn to and repelled by each other like twin stars, the way each mirrors the other’s hopes and desires, one always seeming to have attained what the other is lacking, and finally the way the course of this friendship traces the developments in Italian from the 1950s into the 21st century.

Like the previous volumes, The Story of the Lost Child pays close attention to language – the way it is used to not only mark geographical but also class distinctions, and how command of language, knowing how to write or talk well, can give some degree of power which is not bound to social status or financial wealth (although attaining that command will of course be greatly facilitated if one’s family is influential or wealthy). A power which can also be used to hurt – something that paradoxically not the writer Lena but Lila appears to be more aware of, maybe because, as the narrator keeps reminding us, the Neapolitan dialect Lila is speaking is inherently aggressive. So Lila attempts to erase herself out of existence like a failed novel while Lena finally finishes the memoirs of her friendship which she started at the beginning of A Brilliant Friend and publishes them, knowing this will hurt her friend’s feeling even as it might revive her failing career as an author, and so the book comes full circle in yet another regard, as that book is possibly the one we have been reading, this causing the series to metafictionally turn back upon itself. Or does it? The book Lena publishes is a referred to as a slim volume, and slim is something the Neapolitan Novels certainly are not. The circle does not quite close, there is a gap left, and in a way it is that gap which all four novels (all but the first of which are designated as “Storia” in their original Italian titles, by the way) has been revolving al the time, spinning its tale of friendship and power, of love and violence in that small but unclosable space between reality and fiction.
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LibraryThing member viviennestrauss
I thoroughly enjoyed this 4 part saga though I never would have picked them up if they hadn't been recommended by a trusted friend. The cover art on all four is ATROCIOUS and does not in any way reflect the story, style of writing, quality of literature, etc.
LibraryThing member Laura400
It's hard to imagine that Elena Ferrante could surpass the gut-wrenching impact of My Brilliant Friend. But by the time this novel reached the point where I understood the title, it did.

As a whole, this four-novel series, with its two unforgettable main characters, is an achievement that should be shouted from the rooftops. Elena Ferrante is a wonderful writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Once again, Elena Ferrante brings the intimate friendship of her principle characters, Elena and Lila, to life, though much of what occurs in this final novel in her Neapolitan series is harmful to their friendship. Elena rushes into her relationship with Nino Sarratore, all the the while trying to suppress her suspicion of Lila’s disapproval. Indeed, much of what Elena does and thinks and even writes in her growing career as a novelist and intellectual is shaped and conditioned either by Lila’s explicit critique or by Elena’s imagined version of what Lila might say. And so Elena acts both for and against her childhood friend, desperate to attain some form of autonomy even whilst she foregoes it in her anxiety. Elena has moved back to Naples, though not the old neighbourhood, with her two daughters. And it is motherhood comes to dominate the themes here as first Elena and then Lila herself become pregnant. Their shared condition is emblematic of just how entwined their lives have been throughout whether they were conscious of it or not.

Eventually Elena moves with her now three daughters into the flat above Lila’s in the old neighbourhood. Here the ties with the past are strong. But so too are the ties with elements from the earlier three novels. Ferrante weaves the stories together so tightly that everything in the current novel feels as though it might have been there in the very first one, just hidden around a corner. The lives of Elena and Lila, their lovers and children, and their friends from the old neighbourhood breathe with fire. And once that fire catches you, it is nearly impossible to put the book down.

Ferrante’s Elena narrates the whole of this volume but she is not spared. Even when she is most critical of her friend, the reader sees through her fears to the self-doubt at its root. While not an unreliable narrator, we come to see her view as slanted, as given to jealousy and pettiness as any other, and so she becomes, unsympathetically, even more believable. It is a remarkable balancing act. By the end, I found myself reading ever more slowly, fearing with each page the inevitably loss of this brilliant friendship. Fortunately, I can start again almost immediately, which is surely one of the great blessings of novels as fine as these. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
Ah, the last book. Sorry to see the end. I do keep thinking Ferrante, whoever she really is, wrote all four books to Lila, because Lila really did disappear. If she comes back, maybe we'll get another book!
LibraryThing member Tonstant.Weader
The Story of the Lost Child is the final of the Neapolitan Novels, a marvelous tetralogy by Elena Ferrante that tells the decades long story of a female friendship. Through these four novels, Elena Ferrante has told the life story of Elena (Lenú) Greco and Raffaella (Lina) Cerullo from their childhood to old age and through those sixty some years, she also told the story of their neighbors, of Naples, and of Italy.

Elena Greco is the narrator, telling you the story of her life-long relationship with Lina. The first novel began when the final novel finishes, with Lina disappearing and Elena not being terribly worried about it. In more than one way, this fourth novel brings us back to the first, closing the circle on this sixty year friendship between Elena and Lina.

Like the other three novels in this series, the writing is simple, direct and confessional. Ferrante is not trying to write epigrammatic sentences or highly stylized paragraphs that will be copied and pasted onto pretty pictures and shared in memes for the rest of the digital era. She is a naturalistic writer, her words seem like a conversation sometimes with the reader and sometimes with herself. Taken as a whole, this tetralogy is an amazing accomplishment, but even more stunning is the ability of each work to stand alone, a cohesive story in itself.

Elena and Lila are fascinating. Two brilliant women, Elena, the well-educated one, is a successful novelist and political thinker who writes opinion pieces, is on television discussion panels and active in literary and political circles of the elite. Lila never went past fifth grade, married young, worked in brutalizing jobs and struggled for years for self-determination and independence and dignity. And yet, Elena always seems to envy Lila and we can understand why. Lila has a life force that burns bright – with ambition, pride, anger, justice, passion. She is always living. Elena often finds inspiration in Lila’s ideas, too, though sometimes it seems that Lila thinks and Elena writes.

And Lila envies Elena sometimes, while also admiring her, pitying her, and feeling contempt for her. The one thing that they don’t feel for each other is indifference and their life is a constant orbit, sometimes closers, sometimes far apart.

This last novel tells of their mid life and later years. We learn of the great tragedy that is mentioned in this first novel and see the connections that Elena makes with that past. This life is as tumultuous and violent as their younger years, Naples is just as corrupt and it seems that everything is an endlessly repeating cycle.

5pawsI enthusiastically recommend the entire series. Many series begin strong and peter out by the end, but this feels like it was really just one book, written all of one piece, and then just broken up into four in order not to intimidate us from reading it. I love these two women and will miss them now the book is done. I want more.
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LibraryThing member mjlivi
What an astonishing achievement this series of books is.
LibraryThing member janeajones
I found Ferrante's quartet a sophisticated and psychologically elegant Bildungsroman of two women whose lives are inextricably entwined for over 60 years beginning with their childhood in the 1950s. In an act of love (or, perhaps revenge), Elena Greco sits down to write the life story of Lila Cerullo, who has disappeared.

Lila is overdoing it as usual, I thought.

She was expanding the concept of trace out of all proportion. She wanted not only to disappear herself, now, at the age of sixty-six, but also to eliminate the entire life that she had left behind.

I was really angry.

We'll see who wins this time, I said to myself. I turned on the computer and began to write -- all the details of our story, everything that still remained in my memory.

The poor, working-class neighborhood in Naples in which the girls grew up, one rife with corruption and nearly incestuous family ties, is a kind of collective antagonist to Lila and Elena's struggle to survive and succeed in the tumultuous last half of the 20th century.

Ferrante plays with warring philosophies and ideologies, class conflict, Italian politics, the student and worker protests of the the 1960s and 70s, the sexual revolution, the rise of feminism, the sea-change in economy and work brought about by the introduction of computers as integral aspects of the friendship and competition between Lila and Elena. The reader sympathizes first with one, and then the other, but rarely both at the same time, as their lives follow very different paths, that remain tangled together.

Ferrante's Neapolitan series is a great read, and I expect the ideas and memories generated will remain with me for a long time.
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LibraryThing member mikeydrussell
I would go back to school to learn Italian just to read these books in their original language. The translations are excellent (moments of sloppiness in this last one), but I would like to squeeze out every drop of the vitality they contain.
LibraryThing member mztupelo
I loved this series. As I was reading all the books I always managed to picture it in Black in White. The book had a very cinematic effect to me, as if directed by Vittorio De Sica.
LibraryThing member amaraki
Was this the volume I like least of all? At times yes it was. At times not. Yes because I got tired of all the self-analysis and ego editorializing. No because her prose and insights are often compelling and riveting. No because she is a skillful narrator, picking up the pace and shifting sub-stories as I was starting to yawn from the self-analysis. Yes because the loss is so horrendous -- perhaps the worst possible. Yet, the usually quiet Enzo's long(est) speech to Lenu is so perceptive and penetrating; it was deeply moving. This series as a whole is, in my opinion, one of the greats of modern world literature.… (more)
LibraryThing member BethEtter
This series was the backdrop for my summer. Thank you, Elena Ferrante, for these wonderful characters. I'm sorry it's over.
LibraryThing member SamSattler
I recently completed The Story of the Lost Child, the fourth (and final) book in what has become known as the purposely-mysterious Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series. The books explore the decades long friendship between two Italian women who met as children in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Naples. My Brilliant Friend, first published in 2012, seemed to come from nowhere as it became a 2015 bestseller in, I suppose, anticipation of the publication later in the year of the fourth book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child. Between these two came 2013’s The Story of a New Name and 2014’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.

With the exception of a few brief moments in the books during which Elena, the book’s narrator, addresses the reader about her current feelings regarding her old friend Lila, the books offer a chronologically linear progression of the pair’s more than fifty-year relationship. Seldom has a relationship between literary characters been more deeply explored than this one. Each book in the series comes in at around 400 pages, but the Neapolitan Series is easier to read than one might imagine. My Brilliant Friend, beginning as it does (after a brief word from the sixtyish Elena) when its two chief characters are preschoolers, is both charming and intriguing - and when it ends, some four hundred or so pages later, most readers will want to know more. And Elena Ferrante has a lot more to say about Elena, Lila, their working class families, their friends, their lovers, their children, and the lives the two little girls will live during the next six decades.

Bottom line, this is a fictional study of the kind of longtime friendship that can shape – for good or for bad - a person’s entire life. Even as children, Elena and Lila recognized in each other the best that their neighborhood had to offer. They were among the very brightest in their local school, they were often the most adventurous, and neither was much willing to put up with the foolishness of those around them. They simply could not imagine staying in the neighborhood forever, and they looked forward to the time when they could finally begin living their real lives.

It would not, however, be easy for either of them to make their escape from the neighborhood. Elena and Lila were, as it turns out, as much rivals as they were friends. At times, it can even be said that they were more rival than friend to each other. Their competitiveness drove each of them to achieve more than likely would have been possible if they had never met, but it may have been at too great a cost for them to enjoy what they achieved. Only they can answer that question.

Elena and Lila are two of the most memorable characters I have encountered in a long time, and their often-tragic relationship leaves the reader with a lot to ponder about life, fate, and trying to go home again after living in a bigger world.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
I loved this series from the beginning. The simple prose and the easy unquestionable veracity transported me into the lives of these complicated women and their irreparably damaged yet wholly unbreakable love for one another. This may be the truest illustration of unconditional love I have ever read that did not involve parents and children or siblings. Even when they detested one another these women loved one another. Though there are no fairytale endings, this end to the series was truly satisfying. That is not to say it didn't break my heart over and over. It did. But there were bits of joy and triumph and hope too. In the end everything made perfect sense while being in no way predictable. I hope Signora Ferrante, whomever she might be, has a few more books in her.… (more)
LibraryThing member sblock
Tore through the final installment in this series. Almost ruined my vacation, it was that good.
LibraryThing member mbmackay
The final book of the Neapolitan series of Elena Ferrante.
I'm glad I read this series, and I enjoyed the books, but my enthusiasm was waning a little by the end. While the core of the series is the relationship of the two friends, and plot is not central, I was disappointed by the lack of plot finalisation in this book. I can't help thinking that if plot was to be optional, then the plot scene setting at the start of the first book (Lila gone missing) should have been omitted.
But I quibble - great characterisation (and the novelty of Lila is marvelous) and great moody background of Naples, the culture of honour, and Italy more generally.
Read Jan 2017
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LibraryThing member anitatally
This is the fourth and final book in the Neapolitan series by this author. These books are wonderful - every character is complex and full of life. The author weaves the personal stories of the characters into the political life of Italy in a brilliant way. I am very glad I read all of them!
LibraryThing member lkernagh
Definitely the best book in the quadrilogy. Just unfortunate that one has to read the first three books to fully appreciate this one. Ferrante does an excellent job portraying the “seesaw” motion of Elana and Lila’s friendship. She also does a really good job portraying the rebellion of youth and the generational divide that fuels some of that rebellion. For me, it was actually the epilogue that brought the whole series into focus for me. If one views the story as a means for Elena to record her memories of the tenuous, 5 decade long friendship with Lila, then this is a sweeping saga that has fulfilled that purpose. In the end, it is the imbalance of the friendship, with the continuing desire of both women for preeminence and control in the relationship that really brings a deeper insight into the two women.

Overall, a worthy conclusion for the series. Yes, I did enjoy this one, but not enough to lavish glowing praise on it or have any desire to re-read the series.
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LibraryThing member asxz
Wow. Despite reading the three previous volumes, this was still an emotional gutpunch that took me by surprise. I don't think I will ever fully understand the relationship between these two complex women, Elena and Lila. I'm not even sure if we're supposed to think that the whole thing had been written by Lila in the end mimicking the voice of Elena. It was all tragedy and parenting and learning to love yourself in one enormous emotional bundle that felt essentially Italian and wholly of our time.

These books have been a revelation. Unashamedly soapy. Unapologetically about women. Determinedly literary. A hugely satisfying experience.
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LibraryThing member rglossne
This is the final Neapolitan novel. If you have read them all, you have followed Elena and Lila as they marry, divorce, bear children, and become successful: Elena as an author, Lila as the owner of a computer software business. Despite their success, they continue to live in the neighborhood, with its history of violence and crime. Lila never left, Elena returns to raise her daughters, and they live in different apartments in the same building as their late middle age unfolds. The lifelong friendship between these two women is the core of this story, with episodes from their childhood forming recurring themes. I found each of these novels to be more compelling than the last.… (more)
LibraryThing member annbury
(Jim) A great windup to the series. Once again it is mostly about Elena the writer who discovers that her mother in law tries to prevent her from having a career. She goes back to Naples and eventually moves to an apartment in the same building as Lila.
Everybody is killed in the old neighborhood, and in the 90s and 00s the ladies age well. Elena thinks about Lila sending her a book about Naples, but it doesn't happen. The novel ends with Lila having disappeared totally in Naples.

(Anne) This is the last of the Neapolitan novels, and for me perhaps the most satisfying. But don't expect neat resolutions and orderly endings. Like life, these four novels (or is it this single novel?) are messy, disorganized, surprising, the mundane interrupted with flashes of brilliance, and this volume is all of those and more. It brings into focus some of the ambiguities that stalked the earlier novels -- who, for example, is actually telling this tale? -- and brings the relationship of the two central characters full circle. Like the other three novels, I loved it, and look forward to reading it again.
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LibraryThing member breic
Thought-provoking conclusion to the series. Less melodramatic than book #2, but with quite a twist. Worth reading.


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