This is a four-part story, released at one volume each year between 2012 and 2015. Set in a poverty-stricken section of Naples in the 1950s, it is the story of a friendship between two women, Elena and Lina.
At times I found myself wondering whether anything really happened in these books. Is the whole thing just a souped-up soap opera, I wondered? But occasionally, I'd just sit bank and think- Yep, this woman sure can write. There's a huge scope of time encompassed in these books. The plotting of the series of books is masterful, clearly planned in its entirety from the opening pages of Book 1 which tie in so neatly with the closing pages of Book 4. This isn't a saga with one book added after another once they began to sell well: no, it's a complete whole, conceived as a unity from the start. It was always a little difficult to start each volume after a break, but about half way through each one , she'd put her foot to the metal and it was unputdownable.
I have loved these books. They capture so well the ambiguities of a close friendship, and they mark the passing of time and the 20th century development of Naples, with the chains of past family enmities and the allure of modernity. I flipped through the advertisements for Ferrente's other books at the back of the volume. No, I don't want to read any more. They sound too much the same. This was just perfect, just as it is.
For my complete review, see https://residentjudge.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/the-neapolitan-quartet-by-elena-ferrante/
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