- Series: Neapolitan Novels (Book 4)
- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Europa Editions; Later prt. edition (September 1, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1609452860
- ISBN-13: 978-1609452865
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 930 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Story of the Lost Child: Neapolitan Novels, Book Four Paperback – September 1, 2015
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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
Longlisted for the 2016 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
Named TIME Magazine's #1 Book in it's "10 Best Fiction Books of 2015" list
Named one of the "10 Best Fiction Books of 2015" by The New York Times Book Review
Named one of the "10 Best Fiction Books of 2015" by People Magazine
Featured in the Wall Street Journal's list of "15 Books to Read This Fall"
Included as one of “30 blockbuster novels to look out for this fall” by Entertainment Weekly
Listed as one of Publisher Weekly's "Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2015"
Included in the Kirkus list of "21 Must-read Fall books"
Featured as one of the New York Times Book Review's "100 Notable Books of 2015"
Praise for The Story of the Lost Child
"Dazzling...stunning...an extraordinary epic."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“It's spectacular, but you will only realize how spectacular The Story of the Lost Child is if you do not cheat. You must read the three earlier (also superb) Neapolitan Novels or the perfect devastation wrought by the conclusion of this last novel will be lost on you.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR Fresh Air
“It is the exploration of the women’s mental underworld that makes the book so singular an achievement in feminist literature; indeed, in all literature.”
—Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
"This is Ferrante at the height of her brilliance."
—Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
“Ms. Ferrante has in fact, for more than 20 years, written about female identity with a heft and sharpness unmatched by anyone since Doris Lessing.”
—The Wall Street Journal
"What words do you save? Here's your chance to bring them out, like the silver for the wedding of the first-born: genius, tour de force, masterpiece. They apply to the work of Elena Ferrante, whose newly translated novel "The Story of the Lost Child" is the fourth and final one of her magnificent Neapolitan quartet, a sequence which now seems to me, at least within all that I've read, to be the greatest achievement in fiction of the post-war era."
—Charles Finch, The Chicago Tribune
“We are dealing with masterpieces here, old-fashioned classics, filled with passion and pathos. [...] The sheer power of her books is a challenge to the chilly, dour craftsmanship of too many 21st century literary novels.”
—Joe Klein, TIME Magazine
"The saga is both comfortingly traditional and radically fresh, it gives readers not just what they want, but something more than they didn't know they craved...through this fusion of high and low art, Ms. Ferrante emerges as a 21st-century Dickens."
“Ferrante's accomplishment in these novels is to extract an enduring masterpiece from dissolving margins, from the commingling of self and other, creator and created, new and old, real and whatever the opposite of real may be. [...] Ferrante's voice is very much her own, but it's force is communal. Perhaps her quartet should be seen as one of the first great works of post-authorial literature."
—Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic
“Ferrante [. . .] adumbrates the mysterious beauty and brutality of personal experience.”
—Rachel Cusk, The New York Times Book Review
“[. . .] with her new novel, “The Story of the Lost Child,” Ferrante has written what I’d call a “city book,” a knowing and complex tale that encompasses an entire metropolis. The breadth of vision makes this final installment feel like the essential volume.”
—John Domini, The Washington Post
“This stunning conclusion further solidifies the Neapolitan novels as Ferrante's masterpiece.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Ferrante has created a mythic portrait of a female friendship in the chthonian world of postwar Naples.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Word of mouth launched this series, glowing reviews helped, and, eventually, a publishing phenomenon was born. The series’ conclusion is a genuine literary event.”
—Booklist (starred review)
Praise for The Neapolitan Novels
"Ferrante's Naples Quartet is anything but theater. It is the first genuine literary classic of the 21st century."
—The Huffington Post
“One of modern fiction’s richest portraits of a friendship.”
—John Powers, Fresh Air, NPR
“The Neapolitan Novels tell a single story with the possessive force of an origin myth.”
—Megan O’Grady, Vogue
“Elena Ferrante is one of the great novelists of our time… This is a new version of the way we live now – one we need, one told brilliantly, by a woman.”
—Roxana Robinson, The New York Times Book Review
“A strong sense of chiaroscuro characterises the tetralogy: the thuggish violence of the Neapolitan stradone, the political activism of the “years of lead”, the corruption at every level of society.”
—Jane Shilling The Evening Standard (UK)
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Half a lifetime has passed and the two friends are back together in Naples, living in the same building, each with a baby. We are back to the patterns of childhood where the two girls played with their dolls, losing them into the cellar, making them disappear. Now Elena and Lina have real dolls - the same age, they birth baby girls within days of each other. Lina even calls her child by the name of Elena's erstwhile doll, Tina. The patterns of childhood re-establish themselves. Tina disappears just as Lina's and Elena's dolls disappeared, just as Lina has always promised to do herself. Lina's pattern of dissolving.
The women themselves were born within days of each other in August 1944. They are twinned and entwined. Their names - Elena, Lenuccia, Lenù, Raffaella, Lina, Lila - is perhaps a play with identity and authorship. Who has authored who? Is Elena writing this story or is it Lina, by manipulating Elena? Whose story is it anyway? Who is the brilliant friend? The one who completes school, gets an education, leaves the traps of the city, becomes a writer - or the one who is so clever she absorbs knowledge on her own, has a native intelligence that goes far beyond her place in the city where she ends up learning about everything and everyone.
Who is author? This is a central question within the story and without - for we do not know who the real Elena Ferrante is - just as we don't know whose story is told.
Elena has written one final novel about friendship. She owes Lina everything - where would she be without her story, without her help, without Lina's brilliant pushing that urged her to do what she did? For after all, Elena took Lina's journals and threw them into the river, after reading, absorbing them. Again the reader wonders whose story this is. Is Elena telling her own story with Lina as a character, or is it Lina's story disguised, copied as Elena's? And what does Lina think? She will never know, for by the end of it, Lina has dissolved as she always threatened to do. The theme of disappearance and dissolution runs through the stories. Elena claims she has written a story in order to hold on to, keep Lina in the world, yet she goes against her friend's wishes. Elena does things on her terms, she keeps Lina in the world, her world.
In these intriguing tales of friendship the author explores identity, self, meaning, the creative life. Lina is portrayed as someone who is constantly manipulating others, she forms and reforms her friends to her will. But she wants to disappear, to dissolve. Yet Lenu is the one who writes Lina, makes her say what she says, merging their identities, even their voices, so that the dialogue flows effortlessly, without any indication of who is speaking. One has to ask who is the brilliant friend? Who is the manipulative one? Are they one and the same?