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Literature & Fiction

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (318 votes)

Released: 2015-09-01

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The Story of the Lost Child: Neapolitan Novels, Book Four by Elena Ferrante


“Nothing quite like this has ever been published before,” proclaimed The Guardian newspaper about the Neapolitan Novels in 2014. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third book in the series, was an international best seller and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Its author was dubbed “one of the great novelists of our time” by the New York Times Book Review. This fourth and final installment in the series raises the bar even higher and indeed confirms Elena Ferrante as one of the world’s best living storytellers.
Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains 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 books. But now, she has returned to Naples to be with the man she has always loved. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Yet somehow this proximity to a world she has always rejected only brings her role as unacknowledged leader of that world into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable!
Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, this story of a lifelong friendship is told with unmatched honesty. Lila and Elena clash, drift apart, reconcile, and clash again, in the process revealing new facets of their friendship.
The four volumes in this series constitute a long remarkable story that readers will return to again and again, and, like Elena and Lila themselves, every return will bring with it new discoveries.
Four starred reviews for Book 3 in the series
14 best-of-the-year appearances for Book 3
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Editoral Review

An Amazon Best Book of September 2015: Elena Ferrante has been an under-the-radar phenomenon for a couple of years now: the pseudonymous, publicity-shunning Italian author of Days of Abandonment – one of my favorite novels of all time – and the three (until now) Neapolitan Novels is the go-to read for thoughtful, analytical women on at least two continents. But if the first three books made her a cult here, The Story of the Lost Child, the final volume of the Neapolitan books, is poised to make her a bona fide star.

Such widespread acceptance and popularity is only fitting, since the characters in the Neapolitan novels are not “fancy” women; they’re for the most part not particularly educated, rich or sophisticated. What they are, always, is full of life and self-doubt and self-consciousness and ambition and love and hate and energy and sexuality. The new book, like the others, centers around the lifelong relationship between Elena and Lina – frenemies from long before such a word existed. The Story of the Lost Child chronicles what happens when the women renew their friendship after many years of estrangement; “One morning, I woke up and thought of her without hostility for the first time in a long while,” as Elena says. Now they are beginning to face aging together.

That’s the plot here, and it is essentially the plot of all of the Neapolitan novels: how do women grow and age, together and apart, how do they relate, how do motherhood, money and men intervene? But you don’t read Ferrante for the plot; you read her for the sheer accumulation of detailed scenes and conversations, for its comings together and breakings apart, and for the way characters disappear and recur until the city in which they live becomes both a vast jungle and the original too-close small town. (Bonus: while it’s probably best to read all four of these novels in the order in which they were published, you can come to book 4 fresh and get up to speed within pages.) Along the way, you also get a glimpse into the politics of 20th century Italy and some sly understanding of the publishing world. (Elena is a published author of some success.) Reading Ferrante is, in other words, both exhausting and exhilarating. The other day, an acquaintance said she loved these books so much she felt like standing on a street corner and handing them out to every woman she sees. I know the feeling. – Sara Nelson

Book Details

Author: Elena FerrantePublisher: Europa EditionsBinding: PaperbackLanguage: EnglishPages: 480

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