Book Review: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Spoiler alert. If you really want to be totally surprised when reading the Neapolitan novels, read no further! If you don’t mind a few little hints about the future of Elena and Lina, read on! “The Story of a New Name” is the second installment of the Neapolitan novels, which I promptly tore through once I finished “My Brilliant Friend”. Again, I’m glad I waited for long time before diving into these books so that I would never be left hanging unlike the adventurous readers who first picked this book up! I read this book in a couple days, sucked in by the existing knowledge of the Neapolitan novels and by the cliffhanger at the end of the first book. The end of the first novel really sets the tone for the second in a way that is entirely enjoyable to devour but heartbreaking all the same. Another shout-out to my boyfriend, this was my second surprise after coming back to school and it was lovely. I’m so glad someone had the forethought and insight on how much I would enjoy these novels because I don’t know what I would have done with myself if I hadn’t had this to devour after finishing the first novel.

“The Story of a New Name” picks up immediately after the end of “My Brilliant Friend”. Lina returns from her honeymoon with a rocky start to her new marriage while Elena goes off to college. I was shocked at how much goes on in this novel in a comparatively short time frame, it only covers about three or four years of Elena and Lina’s lives compared to the first which covered a decade and a half. Elena and Lina’s relationship remains like the ocean, ebbing and flowing based on the tides or whatever happens to being going on in their lives. Elena grapples with coming to terms with her feelings of profound loneliness and her perceived inability to belong anywhere at all. Throughout the novel, Lina and Elena continue to grapple with their true desires and how to get them in a world that accords a woman so little. I did really love this novel. I think it hit a deeper spot in my heart than “My Brilliant Friend” because I am in college and I relate to the emotional trials and tribulations of Elena in trying to establish who she is without losing who she was. I would absolutely recommend this one to all. I think it was better than the first novel, but I don’t think you can skip around in this series because you will lose a lot of context for why the characters act in specific and seemingly illogical ways. Let me know what you think, and as always, Happy Reading!

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This is a very, very popular book. I don’t think I’ve been in a bookstore in the past five or so years without seeing this book. I hadn’t read this before because I was previously put off by the picture on the cover, it seemed a little old-fashioned and too “adult” for me. And it definitely was! I’m glad I waited until I was a young adult to crack this one open because it was truly a delight that was definitely not appropriate for my younger self to read. One aspect of any of Ferrante’s novels is the mystery and debate around the author herself, people trying to find out who are they really and are they really a woman?? I don’t really care about the ~mystery~ of the author, but I really appreciate a good story and this was one! It took me a while to get sucked into the novel but it eventually caught me like it has so many other readers. Also, quick shoutout to my lovely boyfriend who purchased this for me as a surprise for when I came back to school. I love receiving books from the ones that I love, so thank you very much! Shout-out to my parents for also feeding my lifelong book addiction, it was and is much appreciated.

Back to the book! Ferrante’s novel follows Elena Greco, a young woman from Naples through her childhood in “My Brilliant Friend”, the first in the Neapolitan Novels. Elena’s fate is intertwined with that of her best friend, Lina, a seemingly surly and unlikable girl. This novel follows the two girls from infancy into their mid-adolescensce and is told through the eyes of Elena. Ferrante’s novel examines the complicated nature of relationships of all sorts, our friendships, our romantic relationships, and even our familial relationships. Our protagonist Elena is extremely self-aware and this lends itself to her critical evaluation of every moment, for better or for worse. I liked this novel a lot more than I thought I would! It didn’t suck me in immediately and that was disappointing, but I now realize that Ferrante’s writings caught me in complex web that just took time to get stuck in! I would recommend this for 18+ both because of the complex themes and the tendency of Ferrante to include the occasional racy scene. Find it second-hand if you can, I’m sure there are many copies out there! Happy reading!