Author Topic: Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels  (Read 491 times)

Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels
« on: August 16, 2020, 08:27:49 PM »
Surprised there isn't a thread for these (or 'this', rather, as it is really just one novel spread over four volumes).  I finished reading them (it) recently at my second attempt - my first go was stymied simply because I left it so long after finishing vol 3 before going on to the next that I had forgotten all the threads, so I started again from the beginning.

The work as a whole is stronger at the end than the beginning.  The 'neighbourhood', the area of Naples where the two main characters grew up, and where one spends all her life, dominates the first two volumes but for me it never has the sense of being a suburb of a huge city.   It feels incredibly insular, more like an isolated hamlet.  Everything, all marriages, fights, affairs, involves only the eight or nine families listed at the front of each volume.  You never feel that there is anyone else to this community besides them.

Another off-putting aspect which matters less in the latter half of the work is the apparent randomness of the characters' emotions, which flare up with brutal intensity (the emotions are almost always anger and hate) then subside with remarkably few lasting impressions on the various relationships.  Early on the patriarch of one family murders that of another, but there seems to be a bizarre lack of recrimination and bitterness between the two families.  And that randomness stops most of the minor characters, especially the females, from becoming vivid.

But overall I did like the work a lot.  The language is remarkably plain and explicit.  Metaphor is used very sparingly.  It feels quite odd: often the prose reads almost like a diary entry, as the narrator tries to make herself understand why people are behaving as they are, but it can be very effective.  It's like Proust, only not so Prousty.