From Publishers Weekly
The second in a trilogy, book two rejoins narrator Elena Greco and her "brilliant friend" Lina Cerullo as they leave behind their claustrophobic Italian girlhood and enter the tumultuous world of young womanhood with all its accompanying love, loss, and confusion. Against the backdrop of l960s/70s Naples, the previously inseparable girls embark on diverse paths. At 16, Lila has married the prosperous local grocer, Stefano Carraci, only to discover at their wedding reception that he has already betrayed her and damned their union. Conversely Elena has chosen education, a less traditional route to free her from the stultifying village life. Lina asks Elena to hide a box of notebooks from her husband. Instead, she dumps them in the river but not without first reading them. Ferrante masterfully combines Elena's recollections of events with Lila's point of view as documented in her notebooks to drive the narrative. The women's fraught relationship and shifting fortunes are the life forces of this poignant book.
*Starred Review* Ferrante continues the beautiful tale she started in My Brilliant Friend (2012) with this brilliant second book of a promised trilogy. At 16, best friends Elena and Lila are weary of their impoverished neighborhood and its crippling traditions, but while Lila seeks to alter these circumstances through an advantageous marriage, Elena strives to leave it behind by pursuing her education. When Lila’s marriage fails to help her realize her goals, she becomes increasingly spiteful, and Elena, busy with an acceptance to college, grows critical of her progressively unpredictable friend. Once reliant on one another, the girls now find themselves occupying very different spheres in the rapidly changing landscape of 1970s Naples. As circumstances alternately draw them close and push them apart, they face difficult changes in the friendship that has always been their strongest source of love and support. Ferrante’s writing is captivating and insightful. She delves deeply into the character of the girls’ friendship, ushering them into womanhood with an honesty that is acutely personal. Her keen grasp of emotional nuances and minutiae evokes the work of D. H. Lawrence, and the richness of her storytelling is likely to please fans of Sara Gruen and Silvia Avallone. --Cortney Ophoff