I can see why this book gained such a big following but the question is, do I read the othet three?
I really wanted to like this, and stuck with it much longer than I ordinarily would have, hoping that at some point I would just fall into the story. It wasn't terrible, and it had moments of description or character that I enjoyed. But the story simply wasn't going anywhere, and the characters were not interesting enough to carry it along while waiting for some kind of plot to happen. DNF at 32%
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. I don't know if it was the narrator's reading or the source material, but the audio performance contributed to my abandoning the book unfinished. Her voice just kept droning on and on, until I'd realize that my attention had wandered and I had to rewind. After almost 6 hours of listening, I just couldn't face another 12 of the same.
I was reading this for The 16 Festive Tasks square 7: International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language. I don't have another book lined up for this one. I might find a "Light Joker" to use instead.
Since I couldn't use this one for any of the squares, I decided to make my own square:
It took way longer than I expected to finish this. First of all the storytelling felt a bit choppy at the beginning. It would start a scene and without finishing it would jump straight to another unrelated scene, and then without finishing that one would switch to another. One moment these two girls are going up a flight of stairs in anticipation of something horrible, then suddenly a teacher bangs her head against a desk and collapses, then suddenly a girl gets hit with a rock by a bunch of boys. Of course the scenes are then revisited and the resolution told in full in various stages of the book, but if it was supposed to make me curious it failed and only discouraged me from continuing. At the end of the first part, the Childhood section, I stopped for a while to concentrate on another novel and didn't pick this up again until weeks (months?) later.
When I returned to it the storytelling does improve; I can even say that it becomes quite engaging. But ultimately I just didn't like the characters that much. I certainly didn't like Lila, who is at best a strange and unsettling child and at worst cruel, malicious and coldhearted. I didn't like the unhealthy relationship between Elena and Lila, and didn't entirely understand whether they are actually friends, frenemies, not so friendly rivals, or something else. Perhaps I sympathized with Elena—I found the story a bit more interesting when it focuses on her and Lila isn't around—but not by much.
Ferrante does a good job, however, of bringing the atmosphere to life, immersing the reader in that poor neighborhood in 1950s Naples riddled with poverty and violence and offering so few choices for women. I think the translator, Ann Goldstein, also deserves credit for making the story flow well in English. The huge list of characters seemed overwhelming at first but they are drawn so well that by the end I was familiar with their different characteristics. And yet I still can't say this was an enjoyable read, nor would I want to read the next installments in this 4-part series. If this book were a friend, brilliant though she may be, I'm afraid I'd prefer to distance myself from her and let our friendship end here.
Children don't know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow. Everything is This. Now. The street is This, the doorway is This, the stairs are This. This is Momma. This is Poppa. This is the day. This is the night. I was small, and really, my doll knew more than I did.