A bit of preamble:
I’m not one for sweeping, multi-pronged epics. I like my works short and intense.
Have I read and watched all of GAME OF THRONES? Yes, but that was at the behest of my wife and, then later, to not be left out of the cultural conversation.
That said, I soured on the series around A STORM OF SWORDS but kept reading and watching. I finally drew a line in the sand with HOUSE OF DRAGONS, stating: “I’ve spent too much time in this universe; it’s not good for me and I need to move on.”
(To be fair, I will read the remaining novels, if they’re ever published. Sunk-cost fallacy and all that.)
However, within 100 pages of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND — the first book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels — I felt my face glow, felt a connection to these characters, to this life and its drama that I hadn’t felt towards a narrative work in years (apart from LIFE IS STRANGE, naturally). I told my wife: “This is my GAME OF THRONES. This is amazing. This is my everything right now.”
I fucking love this series, and I’m so happy others do too.
As I’ve previously stated, I love nothing more than to go out to a bar, have a beer or cocktail or two, and read.
Normally no one recognizes what I’m reading because I read a lot of weird stuff.
Not the case with the Neapolitan Novels. Those who have read them and recognize what I’m reading? Their eyes light up and they’re so over-eager to discuss them, and I’m more than welcome to indulge them.
Let me rewind a bit:
The Neapolitan Novels — originally penned in Italian, but have been translated to multiple languages — are centered around two childhood girls who become women, colloquially named Lenù and Lila. They both grew up in a shitty part of the outskirts of Naples. They’re both exceedingly intelligent and intellectually and romantically compete against each other. One became a successful author while the other …not so much. The entire four-novel series is about them growing, changing, adapting, and their push-and-pull.
I have yet to read the final novel, hence this post, but I revel in every word. Elana Ferrante — whose name I’ll note is a pseudonym as she prefers to not be known — has a quick wit and succinct brevity that I adore. It’s one of the rare times where I wish I could read the work in the original language.
Some have made claims that it’s a dude writing these, and while frankly I don’t care — most of the protagonists I write are women — it feels very genuine and authentic and lived-in. All I’ll say is: respect the author’s intent, especially when they’re serving you something special like this.
I’ll note that these books are famously known for their absurd covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the material they’re wrapped around. Personally, I love them, however I can understand how others might not. Please, do not judge these books by their covers.