In the third installment of the Neapolitan Quartet, Elena and Lila are independent women who struggle with all that their womanhood entails – motherhood, career, poverty, success, heartbreak – and continue to be inexorably bound to each other.
One of the remarkable qualities of Ms. Ferrante’s work is her nuanced portrayal of class distinctions, especially among the working poor. Many American novelists, if they touch on class at all, confine themselves to the broad categories imposed by race and geography … Ms. Ferrante’s books differ greatly not only from American novels but also from most modern ones. She writes like a classical tragedian dropped into the contemporary … Essentially, this is a woman’s story told with such truthfulness that it is not so much a life observed as it is felt. The reader is ransacked and steps back into the world gingerly, with lingering questions about estrangement and belonging.
Ferrante’s Naples is in thrall to the Camorra, which determines the girls’ behavior toward their classmates (sucking up to Camorra kids), the jobs their boyfriends are allowed (maybe working as an attendant at a gas station on the stradone) and what the girls wear when they come back from a honeymoon (big sunglasses and voluminous scarves, to hide black eyes and bruises) … In these bold, gorgeous, relentless novels, Ferrante traces the deep connections between the political and the domestic. This is a new version of the way we live now — one we need, one told brilliantly, by a woman.
Ferrante’s Naples books are essentially about knowledge—its possibilities and its limits. Intellectual knowledge, sexual knowledge, political knowledge. What kind of knowledge does it take to get by in this world? How do we attain that knowledge? … To those of us fully entangled in the Ferrante universe, participants in this Greek chorus, who have come to care about these characters as much as we care about some people in our actual lives, to those of us who have come to scrutinize the world and ourselves all the more intensely for having read these unforgettable books, her latest report could not have arrived soon enough.