Thursday, June 23, 2016


Elena Ferrante
Europa Editions

Ms. Hen has read all the previous books in the Neapolitan novels series, and when she read the third one, she told herself she would not wait as long to read the next one as she had to read each book, but she did. She waited longer. She’s not sure why. She might have wanted to prolong the anticipation of the pleasure of reading it, or she had too many other books to read.

Ms. Hen loved the three first books. They are the story of Elena and Lila, their friendship growing up in a small town outside of Naples, in the macho middle of the twentieth century. Throughout their lives Italy and the world changes, attitudes towards women and lifestyles transform, and the friends are swept along with the tides.

THE STORY OF THE LOST CHILD is a novel about maturity, both friends are in their thirties, and they have children. At the beginning of the novel, Elena is having an affair with her lifelong love Nino, but she doesn’t realize what a philanderer he is. Ms. Hen wanted to scream at her in the last book, not to go with him, but she knew it wouldn’t make any difference. Elena is a romantic and believes in love, even when all the signs are there that the person she loves is a terrible man.

Elena and Lila become closer in this novel than they had in the previous three novels. Elena moves back to the neighborhood, directly upstairs from Lila. They take care of each other’s children. They even get pregnant at the same time.

Ms. Hen didn’t enjoy this novel as much as the other three. She thinks it might have to do with the fact that this is the end of their lives, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope left. In the other novels, there was always the fantasy of what would happen next, but in this one, there aren’t any dreams about the future, because their lives are what they are, and they probably won’t change. It’s the dreariness of the end of life that brought Ms. Hen down; she wondered, is this what we have to look forward to? She doesn’t want to lose hope, and she’ll do her best to keep it alive in her life.

There is a lot of mystery about who Elena Ferrante truly is, since her name is a pseudonym. A lot of people in Italy have an idea of who she might be, but Ms. Hen doesn’t think it matters. If someone wants to be anonymous, then that is her right. People say they know she is a woman, but that’s all they know.

Ms. Hen had an idea that Ms. Ferrante might have written these novels to create a friend she always wished she had had. The character is a writer, and it appears that the author knows Naples and the time in which the characters lived perfectly. Ms. Hen thinks that she might have created Lila because she never had a lifelong friend who was as talented as she is herself, and she created Lila as a mirror of who she could have been if she never left her neighborhood, and was never educated. The books teem with honesty, so Ms. Hen knows that there has to be some reality to the stories and the characters.

Even though Ms. Hen didn’t enjoy this novel as much as the other three, it is still worth reading to see how Elena arrives at the end of her life and how much she and the people around her have to endure. Life doesn't have to be all suffering, it is simply what we go through, says Ms. Hen. Some people might argue, but Ms. Hen will stand her ground. Nobody can argue with a hen.

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