Last year I finished the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante and felt like my life would never be the same again. I think it’s the most connected I’ve felt to any fictional characters. The four books talk in depth about a friendship between Lila and Lenù following them from children until their later lives. It’s set in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples where Ferrante paints a picture of a place with a real lack of opportunities, surrounded by violence and corruption. Lila and Lenù take very different paths in life but somehow are always connected to each other in a way.
What really makes me love Ferrante’s writing, and I believe all the best authors do this, is she lets you into the character’s minds. Lenù’s thoughts of her friendship with Lila are thoughts that are unimaginable; you could never imagine yourself thinking like that – maybe you do sometimes but you can’t even admit it to yourself.
Her in depth jealousy and ongoing competition with her best friend makes her love and hate her at the same time. Even when they have children she compares their children, thinking that Lila’s child is so much more intelligent and beautiful. It’s dark in its openness that it really makes you think about your own thoughts and feelings. It’s one of the bravest books I’ve read and the first book is really just the introduction to the rest of the books, so persist though and read them all.
Friendship is one of life’s most important qualities, without it you have nothing. Though you have different relationships, I’d hope that your best friend would always be there for you through thick and thin, even when they don’t necessary agree with your decisions. It’s also a heartbreaking read as Lenù manages to rise out of the poverty of life in Naples with the help of her parents’ support, however Lila never had the same chance. It shows that sometimes however hard you try you just won’t have the same chance or break as someone else. Life can be unfair but it can turn into something different at any point. A set of decisions with a sprinkling of luck, who knows what will happen; it’s how you deal with it all that’s the truth of your character. That’s what I learnt from these books and Ferrante’s brilliant writing, I was desperately upset when I finished the last page. What do I do now?
Lucy Rose begins her tour of British Libraries on December 9th.
Fri, 09 Dec: Idea Store Whitechapel, London
Sat, 10 Dec: Bristol Central Library, Bristol
Sun, 11 Dec: Liverpool Central Library, Liverpool
Mon, 12 Dec: Lancaster Library, Lancaster
Her album Live At Urchin Studios is out December 9th.