In the wake of the recent news about huge job losses in closing retail chain stores I had started a post about guaranteed jobs. But it will take a bit more research and thinking to make it hold as an article worth reading.
So, instead, here’s a post about Elena Ferrante. Or, to be more precise, about how I’m enjoying the first of The Neapolitan Novels.
My Brilliant Friend is wonderful.
It was my elder daughter who read the books first. A few years ago, while she was spending a year at home between university and moving to Malta. Then my wife read them. All four books sit on the shelf above the TV in the living room and I have looked at them from time to time and thought that I ‘should’ read them.
My wife watched the first series of the TV series in a binge last week. She said how good the series was and it reminded her how much she had enjoyed the books. “You really should read them,” she said.
In our house I am the self-appointed recommender of books. (I like to think I may even have recommended the Ferrante books to my daughter on the back of a review in the LRB or something — but that may be stretching my memory into the realms of pure fantasy.) Not that anyone takes much notice most of the time. Fair is fair, though.
I picked up the first of the books and started reading.
I’ve been moaning recently that I have not been reading as much as I usually like to. I can see this book causing more problems disrupting my reading. I have had to ration myself for the last three days but I have still ripped through the first part of the book.
Not only is the prose wonderful — and credit must go to translator Ann Goldstein — but the characters of the children who populate the first section are perfectly drawn. It is a difficult task to make young children so interesting when their worlds are narrow and their experiences so limited. Ferrante conjures a narrow world that is somehow more than enough. Part of this, for me, was that it brought back so many memories of my own childhood. (And no, I didn’t grow up in Naples and I wasn’t a girl. Ferrante’s children are marvellously universal.) Unless I’m mistaken, the first mention of a date is in the second part of the book, just as the children are becoming adolescents. This timelessness of the first section only increases its universality.
And I’m going to stop there. I want to finish the book before I rave any more.