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Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay: Neapolitan Novels, Book Three (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Elena Ferrante (Author)

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1,301578,746 (4.17)89
Member:Chrisethier
Title:Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay: Neapolitan Novels, Book Three
Authors:Elena Ferrante (Author)
Info:Europa Editions (2014), Edition: 1st, 400 pages
Collections:Fiction, Your library
Rating:****
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Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (2014)

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» See also 89 mentions

English (41)  Italian (5)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Turbulent – and sporadic – are good terms to describe the ongoing friendship between Elena and Lila, and the overall impressions of this installment. The story follows their very separate lives during the upheaval, both social and political, of 1960s / 1970s Italy, fueled by struggles between Fascist and Communist factions, along with other societal changes. Against this backdrop the story is really a whole lot of minutiae I wasn’t particularly interested in and I found myself feeling let down with the story. An overall feeling of melancholy continues to permeate the series, due, I believe in a large part to the excessive amount of navel-gazing on the part of Elena. I find it disturbing that while Lila and Elena are now adults - with adult responsibilities - they both seem to have tendencies to revert to the (petulant for Elana and antagonistic for Lila) self-absorption of their adolescence. Yes, Elena does discover feminism and Lila become a what some might classify as a working-class hero by exposing the deplorable work conditions of a sausage factory, but I am actually growing weary of both characters. Neither one appeals to me. So, why do I keep reading? In part, because I like the frank honesty with which Ferrante writes. She tells the story without having to delve into melodrama. Lila and Elena’s friendship is not rock solid, but there is something elusive that keep them connected. It is not the BFF one encounters in other books. If anything, the friendship is tenuous at best, waxing and waning between tensions of hostility and tenderness. It is the examination of this friendship as the two travel through life that continues to hold my interest. Maybe it is the familiarity I have developed for the characters... kind of like the neighbours that you really don't want to associate with but still cannot help observe their comings and goings. ( )
  lkernagh | Sep 14, 2018 |
In the end, I think I liked the idea of this trilogy more than I liked the books themselves. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
In this book Lenù grows up, and suddenly Ferrante's meandering internal monologues swing into orbit around the twin poles of SEX and POLITICS. Perhaps this is why I found it more successful than the first two – the experiences of 60s student politics, the fight for workers' rights, Elena's gradual feminist awakening, all embed the neighbourhood of the earlier novels satisfyingly into a larger context, while her tangled relationships seemed more meaningful to me than the stuff she was worrying about as a teenager. Or maybe I am just enjoying Ferrante's style more now.

Her technique depends, I think, on a talent for generating frustration in the reader. When Elena gets involved with the wrong guys, she does not, as in some other writers, describe it by means of a lot of tortured expressions of regret and confusion. There's no justifications like I knew he was a dick, but I just couldn't help myself. Instead she just tells you what she did, and it's left to you as a reader to scream mutely at the page.

Such outbursts tend to revolve around the presence of Nino Sarratore. ‘Oh, this dickhead again,’ you mutter whenever he appears – but Elena, who's now engaged to a nice professor, loses her fucking mind every time he slouches into her life. ‘Even as I was holding [my fiancé's] hand, even as I was affirming that I wanted to marry him, I knew clearly that if he hadn't appeared that night at the restaurant I would have tried to sleep with Nino.’ This despite the fact that he seems to do little but waltz around ‘sowing children’, as she puts it, among her friends and acquaintances.

I realized that precisely because all women wanted him and he took them all, I who had wanted him forever wanted him even more.

This is getting close to a lit-fic treatment of the kind of dynamic that gets posted to erotic fiction websites, tagged alpha-male, harem, cheating, breeding-fetish. At least she is finally getting some decent sex, though, which didn't seem to be much in evidence from past boyfriends, or indeed from her new marriage (an institution which, she says coolly, ‘stripped coitus of all humanity’). She behaves extremely badly, but as a narrator, Elena's willingness to show herself as dislikable, without offering any excuses, charmed me.

It also clashes interestingly with her growing status, in the novel, as a feminist icon. In fact the disparity between her reputation and her behaviour is so glaring that Ferrante is almost playing it for comic effect, no less so because Elena's feelings on the status of women are deeply felt, and grounded in a lived experience that we, as readers, have been following for nearly a thousand pages. Her instinctive sense for injustice runs up against her pragmatic frustration with the earnestness of political activism, in a way that probably feels familiar to many people.

It seemed to me I knew well enough what it meant to be female, I wasn't interested in the work of consciousness-raising.

It's in this new swirl of intellectual stimulation that Lenù re-examines her relationship with Lina, through lenses both political (Lina as working-class revolutionary) and psycho-erotic (‘With difficulty I reached the point of asking myself: had she and I ever touched each other?’). And so all this book's many strange and wonderful tangents only serve, in the end, to add further facets and layers and accretions to that central relationship – which is still, somehow, as mysterious as it's ever been. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Apr 5, 2018 |
Not so much moving as engrossing. This series is a real page turner. ( )
  dcmr | Jul 4, 2017 |
Great writing. ( )
  sberson | Jul 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
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Writing about the Brilliant Friend books has been one of the hardest assignments I’ve ever done. When I began, I thought I felt this way because I loved them so much and didn’t know where to start with all my praising. Then I had to fight a deep desire not to mention the things I most liked in the novels so I could keep them to myself. Now my view of the matter is that somehow Ferrante so thoroughly succeeds in her aim of seizing at “the evasive thing” that she has stirred up something from the depths of her mind that touches and spreads through mine.

It has to do, presumably, with femininity, with having been a girl who loved reading and was supposed to know that you have to let the boys keep winning at math. It has to do too with the less gendered but even more bodily experience of living in and through a mind. And it has to do, profoundly, with living in a mind and being touched by another one: delighted, exasperated, confused, envious, sorrowful, appalled. As the years go by, the women in these novels allow the holes in their friendship to spread, yet Elena feels the presence of Lila constantly, an almost physical pressure, a disturbance in the air. Telling her own story, she thinks, is easy enough: “the important facts slide along the thread of the years like suitcases on a conveyor belt at an airport.” But involving Lila, “the belt slows down, accelerates, swerves abruptly . . . The suitcases fall off, fly open, their contents scatter here and there. Her things end up among mine.”

“May I point out something?” Lila says to Elena in one of the women’s scarce, increasingly ill-tempered phone conversations in the Seventies. “You always use true and truthfully, when you speak and when you write. Or you say: unexpectedly. But when do people ever speak truthfully and when do things ever happen unexpectedly? You know better than I that it’s all a fraud and that one thing follows another and then another.”

This, in a nutshell, is Lila’s problem, perhaps her tragedy. She thinks so fast and with such ferocious rigor; she sees connections and discerns so many fine distinctions; she’s impossible and overwhelming — “too much for anyone” and, most of all, for herself. But Elena keeps thinking about her, putting her on the page. Great novels are intelligent far beyond the powers of any character or writer or individual reader, as are great friendships, in their way. These wonderful books sit at the heart of that mystery, with the warmth and power of both.
added by aileverte | editHarper's, Jenny Turner (pay site) (Oct 1, 2014)
 

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Elena Ferranteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goldstein, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ho visto Lila per l'ultima volta cinque anni fa, nell'inverno del 2005.
I saw Lila for the last time five years ago, in the winter of 2005.
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Book description
Set in the late 60s and early 70s, this continues the story of the feisty and rebellious Lina and her lifelong friend, the brilliant and bookish Elena. Lina, after separating from her husband, is living with her young son in a new neighbourhood of Naples and working at a local factory. Elena has left Naples, earned a degree from an elite college, and published a novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned and fascinating interlocutors. The era, with its dramatic changes in sexual politics and social costumes, with its seeminly limitless number of new possibilities, is rendered with breathtaking vigour. This third Neapolitan novel is not only a moving story of friendship but also a searing portrait of a rapidly changing world.
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Since the publication of My Brilliant Friend, the first of the Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante's fame as one of our most compelling, insightful, and stylish contemporary authors has grown enormously. She has gained admirers among authors--Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Strout, Claire Messud, to name a few--and critics--James Wood, John Freeman, Eugenia Williamson, for example. But her most resounding success has undoubtedly been with readers, who have discovered in Ferrante a writer who speaks with great power and beauty of the mysteries of belonging, human relationships, love, family, and friendship. In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts of her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of mystery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to see each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.… (more)

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