Yesterday was World Book Day. That, combined with the wonderful Primavera in Toscana set from 8f8 at The Arcade got me thinking about my favorite books of the past year. What rose to the top was Elena Ferrante’s magnificent Neapolitan novels. Now, the novels mainly take place in a poor neighborhood in Naples, not in a rich manor home in Tuscany, but know, we Americans are supposed to think there is no difference, right?
Actually, the wall reminds me so much of the wall surrounding the Spanish military base where I was living with a Spanish family while attending my senior year in Algeciras, Spain. The one difference is that the wall in Spain had flowers on the top, trailing down the white walls. There were always two guards outside with a sign “Todo por la patria” on the wall next to the guard station. Can you imagine an American military base with a wall covered with flowers?
John Freeman of The Australian wrote of Elena Ferrante, “Imagine if Jane Austen Got Angry.” The Neapolitan novels tell the story of two women, from their childhood to adulthood. There is a lot of anger in her novels, but also humor and love. They seem so raw and honest, as though the author cannibalized her life to tell the story, though we cannot know as Elena Ferrante is very private. Still, the narrator in this Neapolitan tetralogy is named Elena and plans to be a writer. In terms of the usual publicity authors relentlessly pursue, she said she did all she needed to do for her book, she wrote it. I love that!