Elena Ferrante, “The Story of the Lost Child” (translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein) (2014) – the end of the Neapolitan novels, what to say! Most of what I said when I reviewed the previous installment holds. Ferrante lives up to the hype. Satisfying endings can be hard without being trite. Ferrante gestures to a few “closure” moments in the book as it depicts Lena and Lila’s twilight years, but maintains her devotion to the clear depiction of life’s complexity, while still wrapping things up definitively. Vague and platitudinous of me, I know, but what can I say?
I don’t know a lot about motherhood or loss, the major themes of this installment. To tell the truth I don’t know a ton about Italy either, but I know a little, and also some about the feeling of historical stalemate that hangs over the book. By the mid-80s, revolution and reform have all gotten their moment, Italy and especially Naples remain the same- violent, corrupt, vulgar. Ferrante depicts this feeling of loss without agreeing with the cynical pooh-poohing of many of the men in Lena’s life (especially Nino, the shit).
The closest thing to a bad thing I can say about the series is that it might make you feel bad you don’t have relationships as involved as the Lenu-Lila relationship (or, for that matter, a good dozen other relationships interwoven throughout the book, all masterfully depicted). But at my more optimistic, I think we do- we just don’t have Elena Ferrante doing the writing. *****