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The Story of the Lost Child (2014)

by Elena Ferrante

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Neapolitan Novels (4)

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2,318985,881 (4.25)149
The Neopolitan quartet traces the friendship between Elena and Lila, from their childhood in a poor neighbourhood in Naples, to their thirties, when both women are mothers but each has chosen a different path. Their lives are still inextricably linked, for better or worse, especially when it comes to the drama of a lost child.… (more)

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English (79)  German (7)  Italian (4)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (99)
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
It’s difficult to describe what why Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels are so interesting, because to describe them sounds like describing a soap opera. Even more so, it’s difficult to describe what she does in her fourth and final book of the series, because it sounds so rote and by-the-numbers, but it comes out naturally and organically. Suffice it to say she gives all characters their final, lingering place in the story, some tragic, some happy, some simply existing. It is like life. While the story (which, in retrospect, is a single book split into four volumes) has often focused on Lila and Elena (the character), there are about two dozen other characters in the story that make up the Elena’s world, and specifically the neighborhood of Naples. And the neighborhood is a character in itself.

Those neighborhood children who seemed so innocent in the opening 100 pages have now committed terrible acts. Some have done so out of greed, some have done so out of necessity, and some have done so because that’s what they see around them. The neighborhood remains in Elena’s life and she can never truly escape it or leave. She can experience love, heartbreak, grief and loss, comfort and success, but it’ll always be within the context of her early years, and within the context of her best friend Lila.

The title, as is now typical of the series, has a double meaning. The “lost child” is part metaphor as Ferrante reaches into her character’s pasts to reveal their childhood dolls were foreshadowing for their middle age. Elena’s immaturity of the third novel dissipates into an understanding of the true nature of the world even as she faces the echoes of her bad decisions in her children. Lila, who to Elena has seemed the more mature of the two, becomes less mature in her old age. If Elena is hope, Lila is realism to its illogical extreme.

As happened several times during the reading of this series, toward the end of the book I realized I was equating Elena Ferrante the author with Elena the character. This is a testament to Ferrante’s skill at realism. When Elena mentions publishing a new book, I flip to the back cover to check if this is a title of Ferrante’s. Of course it’s not. Ferrate is writing from experiences of her own life, but not of her own life. Yet in doing so, she creates two of the most realized fictional female characters, (sometimes confusing, sometimes frustrating, but that is real) and etches them in stone so their edges cannot dissipate.

Phrases and quotes I liked:

- ... My boundaries had burst and I was expanding.
- "It's useless to open the eyes of someone in love."
- In what disorder we lived, how many fragments of ourselves were scattered, as if to live were to explode into splinters.
- “Lies are better than tranquilizers.”
- …they all seemed to brighten in his vicinity. I knew that light well, I wasn’t surprised. being close to him give you the impression of being visible, especially to yourself, and you were content.
- “Or the whole universe could collapse. And then what is Michele Solara? Nothing. And Marcello is nothing. The two of them are merely flesh that sprouts out threats and demands for money.”
- “One suffers everywhere.”
- Now that I was surrounded by admiration, I could admit without uneasiness that talking to her incited ideas. A slight push was enough and the seemingly empty mind discovered that it was full and lively.
- Only in bad novels people always think the right thing , always say the right thing, every effect has its cause, there are the likable ones and the unlikable, the good and the bad, everything in the end consoles you.
- Every intense relationship between human beings is full of traps, and if you want to endure you have to learn to avoid them. ( )
  gideonslife | Jan 5, 2023 |
All done... I’m glad I read these books, but I’m glad to be done reading them also. I’m sure these books must have changed me somehow, but I’m not sure in what way... Or maybe I just occupied myself for 40 or so hours? I guess it’s important to hear stories, maybe that’s all that it is.

I listened to the first two and a half books (read very beautifully) and just read the last book and a half. Not sure that made much of a difference,except knowing how some of the names should be pronounced was good.

I certainly hoped for a clever and neat ending, but of course there is no such thing in life or in these books. But the ending worked. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
I enjoyed this final book in the Neapolitan series but I felt at times this book was over-written and could have been shorter. In the second half it finally picked up pace moving towards its conclusion which connects us back to the first book in the series. I must also admit to not liking these two women. I did wonder, as it was the story of a novelist, how much of this was autobiographical given that Elena Ferrante writes under a pseudonym. Does she do this for reasons of personal safety? ( )
  HelenBaker | Dec 11, 2022 |
Összértékelés, mert nem írtam külön a kötetekről. Olyasmi a viszonyom ezzel a sorozattal, mint a két főszereplőnek egymással. Ellenszenvesek voltak a szereplők, nagyon sokáig nem tudtam azonosulni senkivel, mégis úgy sodort, hogy hajnalba nyúlóan olvastam, a második-harmadik-negyedik köteteket egymás után. (Az első olvasása idején még nem jelent meg a második magyarul.)

A társadalmi és a lelki nyomor, a bántalmazás, az erőszak természetessége, a kapcsolataik nyomora, ahogy mindenkiről lehull az álarc, ahogy lehúz a kilátástalanság. Elment az életkedvem tőle, annyira a legrosszabb, legkiábrándítóbb arcát mutatja a valóságnak. Fantasztikusan megírt baromi kellemetlen közeg. Azért sem tudtam letenni, hogy szabadulhassak végre ebből a világból.

Kevés olyan szereplőt tudnék mondani, akit nem a kisebbrendűségi komplexusa irányított, nem volt jó köztük. A mérgező, bántalmazó kapcsolatok hálójában aztán amikor azonosulási pontot találtam, azt rögtön sejtettem, hogy nem fogom zsebre tenni, amit kapok. A Ninók pöcsfejek, nincs kivétel, hiába hiszi minden ostoba liba, hogy vele aztán tényleg más.

Nagyon ügyesen voltak beleszőve a politikai események, mozgalmak, a technikai változások. Na és a drámai csúcspont, ugye. Ami nincs elvarrva, megmagyarázva, megoldva. Hiába szeretne az olvasó - a szereplőkkel együtt - magyarázatot. Általában a valóságot szeretem olvasni. Ez annyira kőkeményen az volt, hogy most pihenésképp olvasnék valami kellemes hazugságot. ( )
  blueisthenewpink | Jul 2, 2022 |
The final in Ferrante's Neopolitan quartet does not disappoint. This book brings fills in the final stages of the story of the friendship between Elena and Lila into the 21st century and into their older years. It is a magnificent story covering women's interpersonal relationships, good and bad decisions, the political and social climate in Italy (particularly Naples) and the process of coming to terms with ageing. I'm devasted to have finished reading the series. A must read. ( )
  SarahEBear | Jun 25, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
Ferrante evokes this unforgiving and opaque culture with great power. Its malevolence affects almost everyone.
Ferrante’s accomplishment in these novels is to extract an enduring masterpiece from dissolving margins, from the commingling of self and other, creator and created, new and old, real and whatever the opposite of real may be.
[Ferrante] has charted, as precisely as possible, the shifts in one person’s feelings and perceptions about another over time, and in so doing has made a life’s inferno recede even as she captures its roar.
Elena brings up every objection to the entire endeavour that a reader might have. If it is so-called auto-fiction then why is it not a mess, like life? If it is the story of a friendship then isn’t every word a betrayal to that friend? If it is sincere and authentic, why is the author’s name on the cover a lie? Borders between autobiography and fiction dissolve, just as the edges of Lila (both her sanity and her body) blur, and Elena provides a continual commentary on this process. Rather than this being annoying and meta, the effect is to make the writing feel alive.
Ferrante is no Balzac or Dickens or Trollope; she is not Zola or Tolstoy. Her narrator does not have the storyteller’s wider vision. Unlike War and Peace, Ferrante’s big book has a narrow lens, and her idea of friendship is more about shared experience than affection.

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ferrante, Elenaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Damien, ElsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldstein, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krieger, KarinÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laake, Marieke vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A partire dall'ottobre 1976 e fine a quando, nel 1979, non tornai a vivere a Napoli, evitai di riallacciare rapporti stabili con Lila.
From October 1976 until 1979, when I returned to Naples to live, I avoided resuming a steady relationship with Lila.
There is this presumption, in those who feel destined for art and above all literature: we act as if we had received an investiture, but in fact no one has ever invested us with anything, it is we who have authorized ourselves to be authors and yet we are resentful if others say: This little thing you did doesn't interest me, in fact it bores me, who gave you the right.
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- 2014 (1e édition originale italienne)
- 2018-01-18 (1e traduction et édition française, Du monde entier, Gallimard)
- 2019-01-03 (Réédition française, Folio, Gallimard)
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The Neopolitan quartet traces the friendship between Elena and Lila, from their childhood in a poor neighbourhood in Naples, to their thirties, when both women are mothers but each has chosen a different path. Their lives are still inextricably linked, for better or worse, especially when it comes to the drama of a lost child.

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