Each Neapolitan Novel is better than the last. In the third installment, I was particularly struck by Ferrante’s ability to capture dissatisfaction. The lived experience of it, off the page, is obviously disagreeable—and yet Ferrante’s communication of it is the opposite: thrilling and dynamic and wholly absorbing. Similarly, the complexity of Elena’s and Lila’s psychology is nothing short of masterful. Neither woman is formulaically constructed and yet I could accurately describe both as “ordinary.” Their personalities are so lush, so fully realized, and – most importantly – so believable that I think of them in my thoughts as people (versus characters). Both women’s stories are remarkable—though again, not because they contain remarkable material. They are remarkable only in Ferrante’s telling of them. The Neapolitan Novels are the most developed character studies I’ve ever read, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is especially deserving of literary praise. That said, the most salient feature of Ferrante’s writing is, to my mind, not its technical perfection. Instead, Ferrante’s achievement is accessibility. Her capacity to check the “craft” and “entertainment” boxes simultaneously is, to use the word a final time, remarkable.
You’re a writer. You write about love. Everything that happens to us feeds the imagination and helps us to create. Let me be near you—it’s something you’ll be able to write about. [A compelling pickup line if I ever heard one.]
Become. It was a verb that had always obsessed me … I wanted to become, even though I had never known what. And I had become, that was certain, but without an object, without a real passion, without a determined ambition.