The Lying Life of Adults: A Novel

by Elena Ferrante

Other authorsAnn Goldstein (Translator)
Hardcover, 2020




Europa Editions (2020), Edition: Reprint, Translation, 324 pages

Media reviews

Sterker dan ooit schreef Ferrante dit boek alsof ze al schrijvend zit te vissen in haar eigen geheugen, met tussenzinnen als: ‘Hij zei, maar ik vat het hier samen…’. Daarbij dreigt ze soms te ontsporen, en is het of ze wordt overmand door haar herinneringen.

Werkelijk mis gaat het net niet, het is deel van Ferrantes literaire spel. Wie dat niet meespeelt moet dat zelf weten, die krijgt het moeilijk met dit boek. Vertalers Miriam Bunnik en Mara Schepers houden het gewiekst in ere. Ze vertalen de lange, soms gekunstelde, altijd interessante zinnen van Elena Ferrante in galopperend Nederlands, met behoud van Ferrantes kenmerkende, houterige Schwung. (****)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Transitions are often fraught, whether they are between socio-economic levels, stages of life, or states of being and experience. We first meet Giovanna when she is still a naive schoolgirl. She has loving, hard-working, aspirant parents, friends in similar life-situations, and a sheltered and comfortable existence. Everything begins to crumble as she moves towards womanhood, feels disappointment, even animosity, from her father and mother, discovers a hitherto unknown wealth of relations in the lower reaches of Naples (i.e. her father’s family), and begins to see more clearly who her parents, and others, truly are. Emotions are vibrant but it’s never clear whether they are proportional. However, the cumulative effect of all these changes is that Giovanna begins thinking for herself, perhaps for the first time, interrogating the impressions people make on her even as she begins to interrogate literature and schoolwork, again perhaps for the first time. Even as she begins to see others differently, so too is she perceived differently. And it’s clear that these transitions to new states of understanding, so long as she remains inquisitive, will be endlessly ongoing. Just how she will take advantage of her self-awareness becomes the open question at the end of the novel.

Told from Giovanna’s perspective, there is much that Ferrante is able to accomplish with a teenage narrator. But equally there are limitations. Giovanna is particularly unaware of what is really going on in her household at first. And that forces her narrative to be somewhat piecemeal as enlightenment is gained only a bit here and a bit there. With more adult narrators, Ferrante can let the full force of her literary and emotional arsenal loose. Here, we see that only in glimpses until perhaps the last quarter of the novel. Growth, for Giovanna, can be painful and it can be awkward for readers sharing her journey. There are cul de sacs, dead ends, pointless forays (perhaps) into religious anxiety and casuistry. But isn’t that precisely what life was like for many of us as teens? And though this may merely presage a further transition to the lying life of adults, it might also, as in this case, encourage the participants to “become adults as no one ever had before.”

As ever, Ferrante is fascinating and challenging in equal measure. And always highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member SignoraEdie
I wanted to like this book! The author again delves into the emotions of adolescents but it didn't hold me. I found myself skimming thru the yada yada. It did bring to mind the concept of "la bella figura" in the Italian culture...where the truth is hidden or not publically acknowledged but is sacrificed to "put on a good face!"… (more)
LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
mostly just bored. unlikeable characters, going nowhere. lacks the epic scale of the neapolitan books and the energy of her shorter novels.
LibraryThing member davidroche
I am a fan of the books of the Neapolitan Novels Series (My Brilliant Friend et al) and also their excellent TV adaptation. A whistle-stop visit to Puglia last week gave me a great excuse to get introduced to Elena Ferrante’s latest, stand-alone novel, The Lying Life of Adults (Europa). Having had 3 sons, I have to admit to being somewhat mystified by daughters and this wonderfully engaging story of Giovanna’s coming of age – amplified by the outsized nature of Italian family life – I really enjoyed. Some may wish to assess it alongside her earlier quartet, and here a bracelet takes on the role of the red shoes, but I just enjoyed it for what it was and was not disappointed.… (more)
LibraryThing member brangwinn
I enjoyed Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, and I was determined to enjoy The Lying Life of Adults. I tried reading it and Giovanna’s self-absorption and her hatred of her parents and what they supposedly did to her was too much. I started with reading and then went to the audiobook, thinking maybe if I heard the words spoken, it might make a difference. The only difference was that Giovanna and her Aunt Vittoria became more toxic. I know that there would be some rough language about sex. I expected that, but I really had hoped there would be some grown in Giovanna as the story followed her from age twelve to sixteen. The only grown seemed to be in her breasts. At the end there seems to be the possibility of more books to come and maybe Giovanna will eventually move out of her self-absorption, but I found no pleasure in this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member joecanas
This was my biggest literary disappointment of the year. I could not warm to any of the thinly drawn characters. Also, simply listing Napoli street names over and over is not enough to qualify this as a "Neapolitan novel." And ENOUGH ALREADY about the bracelet! Who cares? Maybe this should have been a children's book sequel to The Beach at Night?… (more)
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
November 20
-- “Maybe everything would be less complicated if you told the truth.” She said haltingly: “The truth is difficult, growing up you’ll understand that, novels aren’t sufficient for it."--
I've been involved with the intricate world of Elena Ferrante lately, watching My Brilliant Friend on HBO and reading The Lying Life of Adults, her latest novel. In both works complicated relationships are explored, relationships with family, boys and other girls. In her latest novel we follow Gianni who early on overhears her father say that she is getting ugly like Vittoria. "So it was that, at the age of twelve, I learned from my father’s voice, muffled by the effort to keep it low, that I was becoming like his sister, a woman in whom—I had heard him say as long as I could remember—ugliness and spite were combined to perfection." Vittoria is her estranged aunt, and thus Gianni begins her obsession with meeting her. Vittoria, it turns out, loved a policeman named Enzo, who is married to Margherita and has three children with her. After Enzo's death his two loves unite. As Vittoria explains to Gianni :"What a person Margherita is, a wonderful woman, sensible, I’d like you to meet her. As soon as she understood how much I loved her husband, and how much I was suffering, she said: all right, we loved the same man, and I understand you, how could one not love Enzo. So enough, I had these children with Enzo, if you want to love them, too, I have nothing against it." Gianni is enthralled with her Aunt's world and her frank explanations of sex with Enzo ; she warns "If you, in all your life, don’t do this thing as I did it, with the passion I did it with, the love I did it with, and I don’t mean eleven times but at least once, it’s pointless to live."
Her relationship with her aunt causes her to think differently about her own parents as she begins to get a different perspective. This world of Naples, like the one in My Brilliant Friend, is filled with deceits, mistresses and self exploration. We get to follow Gianni as she searches for her own passion and balances her own desires with a fear of repeating the deceptions that she has witnessed in her family. Engaging reading.

a woman dressed all in blue appeared, tall, with a great mass of very black hair arranged on her neck, as thin as a post, and yet with broad shoulders and a large chest. She held a lighted cigarette between her fingers, she coughed and said, moving back and forth between Italian and dialect: “What’s the matter, you’re sick, you have to pee?”

Vittoria seemed to me to have a beauty so unbearable that to consider her ugly became a necessity.

Vittoria had very thick eyebrows, licorice sticks, black lines under her large forehead and above the deep cavities where she hid her eyes.
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LibraryThing member Katyefk
The story of a young girl becoming a teenager in Naples, Italy with all the drama of the breakdown on her parents' marriage and friend betrayals and a crazy aunt. Not sure what else to say. That time of my life was 50 years ago so it was not so relevant for me. I was interested in the writing techniques of the author, who wrote my Brilliant Friend. Also, about dysfunctional families and the possible long term effects on all young family members and friends involved. If this subject matter interests you, you may enjoy this. I could not wait to be done with the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member PhilipJHunt
Ferrante is at the top of her game. For example, here is a perfectly good sentence describing a somewhat hurried sightseeing walk around Milan.

"We walked from a church to a courtyard to a square to a museum, without stopping."

Clear enough, but not sufficient in this author's hands. She adds:

"as if it were our last occasion to see the city before its destruction."

Her prose flows into the reader's mind like velvet conversation. You hardly notice that a paragraph has become a page. Or, if you do, she's onto you with half a page of rapid-fire direct speech. Words and grammar and sentence length and punctuation all blend with seamless effect. Likewise, the plot moves quickly but invisibly on revelations that surprise and delight.

Definitely 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member kakadoo202
Lively. I like that characters are good and bad. Felt real.
LibraryThing member starbox
I love Elena Ferrante's books- she gets right into the mind of her characters so theyre utterly believable.
When young teen Giovanna- daughter of am aspirational educated couple - makes contact with long-lost Aunt Vittoria, her life changes forever.
Is Vittoria (her father's sister- a menial worker in the rougher part of town) really an unsavoury characer (as her parents claim)? Or are the parents deeply flawed people? Giovanna is torn between them...
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LibraryThing member whitsunweddings
I wonder if something has been lost in translation? An early Guardian review I read of the original in Italian mentioned that the Common People-esque "slumming it" element is very strong, which I didn't get (I think I missed the signifiers of how wealthy Giovanna's family were, bc I know literally nothing about '90s Italy). There's also apparently very funny mangling of the Neapolitan dialect, but that's not really something you can translate, I guess.

idk, I can appreciate the authenticity of the adolescent experience here, but this felt like all the parts of our teen years we'd rather forget. I didn't like any of the characters and the whole thing felt like a bunch of sordid people squabbling. Meh.
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