Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
A profound exploration of friendship between two young girls, of class, of the power of education, of poverty -- a sweeping canvas painted in a small frame. Human relationships, messy, violent, alluring, ever-changing and sustaining are the subject, although if you, like me, have been reading about the book in various places, the work itself almost falls into the background with so much attention focused on who the obsessively reclusive author actually is. It's even been suggested she is a he -- famous Italian writer Dominico Starnone. Who knows.
The narrative drew me in, but not all the way, alas. I found much of the book distanced. This might have been a fault of the translation, but I'm inclined to believe it was because of Ferrante's choice of psychic distance and her tendency to write in summary rather than scene. She tells us a great deal about what's happening and to whom, but rarely did I feel any true identification. How I longed for a smell or two, a word about textures or tastes or sounds. This might be the restraint of a terribly personal writer, but one has no way of knowing that and in any case the reader shouldn't have to make allowances.
This bildungsroman is the first of a trilogy, and takes us from early childhood in a noisy, chaotic Neapolitan slum to the wedding of the brilliant friend (which does comes with a lovely transforming shift in the narrator's perceptions). I'm not sure I'll continue on with the next two volumes.
For an in-depth analysis of Ferrante's work I recommend the following article...