The newest novel from Elena Ferrante and a slight, but not total departure for her. This book takes places in the 1980s and 1990s and is narrated by an adolescent girl (who through the course of the novel grows into a teen girl). We begin with her living with her parents when her father makes the remark that she is very ugly. This sets her off in part for the obvious reason of how hateful and cutting and damaging such a remark would be, but with the additional damage of it being the same language he has used in the past to describe his estranged sister, the girl’s aunt, who holds a mysterious and alluring presence in her life. But like in all Elena Ferrante novels, there’s not actual mysteries in the world, and so when the girl finds her aunt, she finds a complicated, damaged, alluring, but ultimately explainable new relationship in her life.
This connection supports her (and costs her) in the next few years that include her father leaving her family and living with a new woman, as well as, her own growing into womanhood, sans guidance, in mid-1990s Naples.
This novel is just as incisive and cutting as the other novels, but because this is the age of Ferrante’s children (if she has them) and not her own life (even though the Neapolitan novels likely are a little older than her) there’s a slight distance of abstraction. This is countered with how raw the narration is, and so the effect reminds me a lot of the plotting of the Neapolitan novels with the tone and narration of Days of Abandonment.