Book Review

the story of the lost child by elena ferrante

two and a half months ago i read an incredible novel

Written may 26th:

It is always sad to reach the end of a novelistic series, especially because it often seems to be the case that anyone who writes a truly great work composed of numerous volumes of prose rarely writes anything distinct but as good. Please suggest any you can think of, as this is the first time I’ve been able to complete reading a series while retaining anticipation for the further work of a writer.

Like, I’m being serious here. What else in the oeuvre of Marcel Proust shines as bright as his seven volume banger? Have you ever had the misfortune to read any post Min Kamp Knausgaard? Please, give me a counter example.

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The Story of the Lost Child is, of course, fucking wonderful. How is it wonderful? Let me count the ways… five. It is wonderful in five ways.

1. Even though I read My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name four years ago and the third (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) and fourth volumes within the space of a few weeks, the characters all felt like people I’d known my whole life.

Tbh, other than the two main figures and the local gangsters, when I thought about Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels during my multi-year reading hiatus, I didn’t retain much memory of any other characters. So, it’s not like I felt I’d known them forever because I’d been thinking about them forever, but it felt like I’d known them forever because the depth of characterisation inherent in Ferrante’s writing (and the incredible translation by Ann Goldstein) is unequivocal and unparalleled. Every character, down to the smallest recurring role, in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels is rounder and fuller than than than the protagonists of thousands of serviceable novels. This is literature done, to be blunt, correctly.

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It is now August 13th, two and a half months later. I have no idea what four other “ways” I was thinking of. There are no notes to help me.

What has changed? Not much.

I’m back at work full time, which is nice, though perhaps it is still inadvisable in that there’s still a global fucking pandemic going on and I’m still obviously riddled with my never-ending psychological problems lol and I had a properly massive panic attack for the first time in months yesterday and had to spend about an hour on the floor which is the “safe place” I sink to when in moments of despair and though it is comforting when I need that to do that, knowing that I have been reduced to horizontal hyperventilating and tears isn’t really a good sign. Teehee.

As I keep mentioning on this blog, there is a huge amount of posts and drafts of posts in varying stages of completion that have been written across the rest of May and throughout June and July and the first half of August, too, some of them about the reasons why the blog again stalled but most of them quite directly about books, more so than usual, I think, which is in itself probably a red red flag.

Obviously, The Story of the Lost Child is one of the greatest, most moving, most articulate and most powerful novels I’ve ever read, as significant and deserving of renown as the other three books that make up the Neapolitan Novels.

There is nothing important or fresh I have to say about this book, and that’s not because I have no faith in my own critical faculties (this is the one thing I do have faith in, you’ve gotta have faith in your creative faculties), but because I read this book two months ago and didn’t make any proper fucking notes at the time and I am not a genius, I am merely honest and emotional, two of the key pillars of my “creative” “output”. lol but seriously blogging doesn’t count as writing.

The Story of the Lost Child was wonderful, it was perfect, and I will read more Ferrante and I will read more Ferrante soon, but of this one, I have nothing potent to add. This is no one’s loss.

If you are going to get into Ferrante because I’ve reminded you of her rather than persuaded you to do so, make sure to order direct from Europa Editions or from a bookseller that is not Amazon. Please, please, please, for the sake of literature, never buy ANYTHING from Amazon except for my Amazon-exclusive book of humour poetry and full frontal nude photographs, Because Earth Is Flat.

For now, I will close, nostalgically, wistfully, with the video I made after I holidayed in Naples with two friends many many many years ago, a tiny (i.e. not bald), young Scott Manley Hadley in a v. Scott Manley Hadley “documentary” about Pompeii. Enjoy:

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