Bibliophile by the Sea: "[Ferrante] knows how to write about women and their life struggles."
Date: Oct 23 2013
The Story of a New Name is the second book of a proposed trilogy; it follows My Brilliant Friend. The two girls, now women grew up in a poor section of Naples in the 1950s. It was an area where most men worked hard to provide for their families, and there was not much money left over for anything else. Family life was less than ideal for these girls (now women) and violence in the homes was not unusual. Even though Elena and Lila were best friends, they were not always kind to one another -- in fact at times it seemed like the meanness of the adults in their lives rubbed off on them as well.
In this novel, set in the 60's and 70's, Elena and Lila's lives have taken very different paths. Lila, "the brilliant friend" of the first novel, has left school behind and at just 16 years old married the local grocery store owner, Stefano Carraci. She was urged to do so by her family. Unfortunately, Stefano's moderate wealth does not necessarily make him the ideal catch. Financially Lila doesn't have to worry, but Stefano is not the loving husband most women dream of. He is abusive and is in the hooks of criminals in the Solara family. Lila is miserable with her marriage and her life. Her friend Elena, on the other hand, sees education as her way out of poverty and an opportunity for a better life. In college she struggles though and finds that her new found freedom makes academic success challenging. Outside of school, when Elena is back home, her reunions with Lila are difficult as well because of Lila's situation.
I liked this sequel a lot. Elena and Lila are such memorable protagonists and not always in a good way. This author knows how to write about women and their life struggles. Following the frustrating but fascinating adult relationship was rewarding. There is a part where Lila asks her friend to keep some notebooks for her and Elena takes them, reads them, but then dumps them in the river instead of doing what her friend asks her.
I thought the author did a great job of picking up where the first novel left off. At times I felt like the author's writing seemed somewhat autobiographical. It felt almost voyeuristic at times, reading about these two women and their continued life struggles. As was true of the first installment, the translation is of this novel was excellent as well.
I can't wait for the final installment to be published. In addition to this trilogy, I've read (3) other books by the author that I enjoyed: Days of Abandonment (2005), Troubling Love (2006) and The Lost Daughter (2007) - each is a much slimmer novel in comparison to the trilogy series, and so well done. I highly recommend this author and series.
4.5 /5 stars