Catherine Taylor

Two Women of Naples

The Story of the Lost Child

By

Europa Editions 473pp £11.99 order from our bookshop

The fourth and final volume in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novel series arrives freighted with expectation. The decades-long rivalrous friendship of two women from the slums of postwar Naples – Raffaella ‘Lila’ Cerullo and Elena Greco – has, by means of its eviscerating neorealism, gripped the reading public, not least because of Ferrante’s continued wish to remain pseudonymous and unknown. Lila and Elena’s relationship, which from childhood has been a near-metaphysical battle of wills, is now, at the beginning of The Story of the Lost Child, in stasis. It is 1976. At the close of the previous novel, narrator Elena, a university-educated writer living in Florence with her husband, Pietro, who is a professor, and two daughters, abandons this seemingly becalmed existence for a tumultuous affair – and ultimately a return to her home city – with Nino Sarratore, a former lover of Lila from their Naples ghetto. Lila, meanwhile has remained at the heart of what is pointedly referred to as ‘the neighbourhood’, in a low-status job, living with the son from her violent early marriage and Enzo, her new partner.

Ferrante traces Elena and Lila’s progress through late 20th-century Italian society with only fleeting reference to external events

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • With our February issue about to go to press, enjoy a slice of LR history - Hilary Mantel on Joan Haslip's biograph… ,
    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,