Elena Ferrante has recently been exposed. An Italian author, who found recent success with her quartet of books, the Neapolitan Novels, Ferrante has always shied away from the spotlight. She refuses to do interviews and her name is a pseudonym. So, when a private investigator recently saw it as his duty to reveal her true identity, many of her fans were confused. Ferrante had made a conscious attempt to retain privacy and was unexpectedly revealed.
Many had assumed that the Neapolitan Novels were autobiographical, especially considering the protagonist shares the same name, Elena. However, when the author's true identity was uncovered, it became clear that she could not be the same as her protagonist. The city of Naples is at the heart of these novels, and it became evident that the author was not from Naples at all. To some, it seemed like Ferrante had tricked them into a false reality, and they had thought that they were reading a truly autobiographical tale. To me, this was fiction. Good storytelling makes you believe that the events that you read are real. Elena Ferrante's all-consuming Neapolitan Novels (which she originally intended as one novel) are a rare find - they are books where the events are so real that you cannot put them down.
The first novel, My Brilliant Friend, tells the story of a friendship between Lila and Elena from early childhood up until a transformative event in one of the characters' life. Written in the first person through Elena, Ferrante beautifully describes the pleasures and complications of female friendship. Despite this (and the book's misleading, girly cover), this is not just a book for women. As well as detailing the intricacies of an intimate friendship, the book tells the tale of a community and all of the complex characters within it. Though this community is a neighbourhood in impoverished Naples, the world she conjures up feels familiar. Through the rich detail of the storytelling, you know the streets that she describes, and they begin to remind you of your own home and your own memories. Everyone of every age should read these books.
The Neapolitan Novels are about everything. There is not a topic that Ferrante ignores. When you finish the four lengthy novels, it is more than a proud moment - it is a struggle to remove yourself from the world within the books. The beauty and sadness of Elena Ferrante's writing is that the world within the book is simply a story. Like Elena Ferrante herself, the story is not real. This does not mean that Ferrante tricks us into false reality; rather, it exemplifies the power of good storytelling.
Have you read the Neapolitan Novels? Would you like to?