The Story of the Lost Child (Neapolitan Novels Series #4)by Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein
“Nothing quite like this has ever been published before,” proclaimed The Guardian newspaper about the Neapolitan Novels in 2014. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third book in the series, was an international best seller and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Its author was dubbed “one of the great novelists of our time” by the New York Times Book Review. This fourth and final installment in the series raises the bar even higher and indeed confirms Elena Ferrante as one of the world’s best living storytellers.
Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives. Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up—a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. But now, she has returned to Naples to be with the man she has always loved. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Yet somehow this proximity to a world she has always rejected only brings her role as unacknowledged leader of that world into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable!
Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, this story of a lifelong friendship is told with unmatched honesty. Lila and Elena clash, drift apart, reconcile, and clash again, in the process revealing new facets of their friendship.
The four volumes in this series constitute a long remarkable story that readers will return to again and again, and, like Elena and Lila themselves, every return will bring with it new discoveries.
Four starred reviews for Book 3 in the series
14 best-of-the-year appearances for Book 3
In Ferrante's fourth and final Neapolitan novel, she reunites Elena, the accomplished writer, with Lila, the indomitable spirit, in their Southern Italian city as they confront maturity and old age, death, and the meaning of life. The two friends face the chaos of a corrupt and decaying Naples while the lives of the people closest to them—plagued by abandonment, imprisonment, murder, and betrayal—spiral out of control. "Where is it written that lives should have a meaning?" Lila asks Elena, disparaging her friend's career choice in the process. Readers will need the accompanying index of characters to keep track as Ferrante resolves the themes and events from earlier titles (My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) with a force and ferocity recalling the devastating earthquake of 1980 and Vesuvius's volcanic eruptions, which themselves provide the unsettling background to the narrative. Ferrante's precise foreshadowing is such that an early incident of a lost doll in book one mirrors the lost child in book four right down to their shared first name—and "The Blue Fairy," the story Lila scribbled in a childhood notebook that Elena threw in the Arno, resurfaces in this installment's final pages. Throughout, there's the sense of the circle completing: near the end, Elena pens a short novel entitled "A Friendship" (a metafictional nod to Ferrante's series as a whole), inspired by her half-century relationship with Lila. The novel is Elena's final work and permanently ties Elena and Lila together, for better and worse. This stunning conclusion further solidifies the Neapolitan novels as Ferrante's masterpiece and guarantees that this reclusive author will remain far from obscure for years to come. (Sept.)
Named TIME Magazine's #1 Book in it's "10 Best Fiction Books of 2015" list
Named one of the "10 Best Fiction Books of 2015" by The New York Times Book Review
Named one of the "10 Best Fiction Books of 2015" by People Magazine
Featured in the Wall Street Journal's list of "15 Books to Read This Fall"
Included as one of “30 blockbuster novels to look out for this fall” by Entertainment Weekly
Listed as one of Publisher Weekly's "Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2015"
Included in the Kirkus list of "21 Must-read Fall books"
Featured as one of the New York Times Book Review's "100 Notable Books of 2015"
Praise for The Story of the Lost Child
"Dazzling...stunning...an extraordinary epic."
— Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“It's spectacular, but you will only realize how spectacular The Story of the Lost Child is if you do not cheat. You must read the three earlier (also superb) Neapolitan Novels or the perfect devastation wrought by the conclusion of this last novel will be lost on you.”
— Maureen Corrigan, NPR Fresh Air
“It is the exploration of the women’s mental underworld that makes the book so singular an achievement in feminist literature; indeed, in all literature.” — Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
"This is Ferrante at the height of her brilliance." — Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
“Ms. Ferrante has in fact, for more than 20 years, written about female identity with a heft and sharpness unmatched by anyone since Doris Lessing.” — The Wall Street Journal
"What words do you save? Here's your chance to bring them out, like the silver for the wedding of the first-born: genius, tour de force, masterpiece. They apply to the work of Elena Ferrante, whose newly translated novel "The Story of the Lost Child" is the fourth and final one of her magnificent Neapolitan quartet, a sequence which now seems to me, at least within all that I've read, to be the greatest achievement in fiction of the post-war era." — Charles Finch, The Chicago Tribune
“We are dealing with masterpieces here, old-fashioned classics, filled with passion and pathos. [...] The sheer power of her books is a challenge to the chilly, dour craftsmanship of too many 21st century literary novels.” — Joe Klein, TIME Magazine
"The saga is both comfortingly traditional and radically fresh, it gives readers not just what they want, but something more than they didn't know they craved...through this fusion of high and low art, Ms. Ferrante emerges as a 21st-century Dickens." — The Economist
“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's voice is very much her own, but it's force is communal. Perhaps her quartet should be seen as one of the first great works of post-authorial literature." — Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic
“Ferrante [. . .] adumbrates the mysterious beauty and brutality of personal experience.”
— Rachel Cusk, The New York Times Book Review
“[. . .] with her new novel, “The Story of the Lost Child,” Ferrante has written what I’d call a “city book,” a knowing and complex tale that encompasses an entire metropolis. The breadth of vision makes this final installment feel like the essential volume.” — John Domini, The Washington Post
“This stunning conclusion further solidifies the Neapolitan novels as Ferrante's masterpiece.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Ferrante has created a mythic portrait of a female friendship in the chthonian world of postwar Naples.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Word of mouth launched this series, glowing reviews helped, and, eventually, a publishing phenomenon was born. The series’ conclusion is a genuine literary event.”
— Booklist (starred review)
Praise for The Neapolitan Novels
"Ferrante's Naples Quartet is anything but theater. It is the first genuine literary classic of the 21st century." — The Huffington Post
“One of modern fiction’s richest portraits of a friendship.” — John Powers, Fresh Air, NPR
“The Neapolitan Novels tell a single story with the possessive force of an origin myth.”
— Megan O’Grady, Vogue
“Elena Ferrante is one of the great novelists of our time… This is a new version of the way we live now – one we need, one told brilliantly, by a woman.”
— Roxana Robinson, The New York Times Book Review
“A strong sense of chiaroscuro characterises the tetralogy: the thuggish violence of the Neapolitan stradone, the political activism of the “years of lead”, the corruption at every level of society.”
— Jane Shilling The Evening Standard (UK)
Inexorable seismic changes—in society and in the lives of two female friends—mark the final volume of Ferrante's Neapolitan series. Elena and Lila, the emotionally entwined duo at the center of Ferrante's (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, 2014, etc.) unsentimental examination of women's lives and relationships, advance through middle age and early old age (perhaps) in this calamitous denouement to their saga. The more fortunate Elena, an author who struggles to assert herself in the misogynistic world of 1970s and '80s Italy, is drawn back to Naples and its internecine bloodshed; Lila, who has stayed in the city of their youth, is at odds with its controlling families. Elena's "escape" and attempts at personal and familial fulfillment, on her own terms, hint at the changing roles of women in that era, but it's Lila's daily struggle in a Camorra-controlled neighborhood that illuminates the deep fractures within contemporary Italian society. The paths to self-determination taken by the lifelong friends merge and separate periodically as the demands of child-rearing, work, and community exert their forces. The far-reaching effects of a horrific blow to Lila's carefully maintained equilibrium resonate through much of the story and echo Ferrante's trademark themes of betrayal and loss. While avid devotees of the Neapolitan series will be gratified by the return of several characters from earlier installments, the need to cover ground in the final volume results in a telescoped delivery of some plot points. Elena's narrative, once again, never wavers in tone and confidently carries readers through the course of two lives, but the shadowy circumstances of those lives will invite rereading and reinterpretation. The enigmatic Ferrante, whose identity remains the subject of international literary gossip, has created a mythic portrait of a female friendship in the chthonian world of postwar Naples.
Meet the Author
Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of The Days of Abandonment (Europa, 2005), Troubling Love (Europa, 2007), and The Lost Daughter (Europa, 2009). Her Neapolitan novels include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and the fourth and final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child.
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This is the last book in the series and it will leave you breathless, your heart broken. Be prepared to cry. I loved these books. They are like nothing I have read before.