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In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom were first introduced in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance, and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the 1970s. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.
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By Lori on 12-17-15
It's finally picking up a bit in book 3
This is the 3rd in the 4 book series and so far, this is my favorite one (though I'm still not as enamored as most of the reviewers here). It gives more insight into Lila and why everyone thinks she's so fabulous. It also gives a glimpse into the feminist movement in the 70s in Italy- the thoughts and actions of women breaking ground for the future freedoms of female sexuality, and men's reactions having to come to terms with strong women. We still find Elena insecure and envious and Lila is still mean, so I wonder how they stayed friends throughout the years. I guess because it takes place before the "get rid of the toxic people in your life" mantra. Again, Ferrante has a way of writing that gives the characters authenticity and the scenes a reality and feel I don't get from most books. Not that it's over the top description; that's not it at all. But it's one of those books that imprints itself somehow, even though, or perhaps because the stories of these lives hit very close to home. As for the narrator, I don't know that I'll ever be able to listen to this narrator again. It's too slow and lacking feeling, though it is starting to seem to fit the character of the books. I listen on 1.5 so as not to go crazy or fall into a stupor.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
By CHET YARBROUGH on 07-30-15
DOING AND THINKING
“Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” reflects on the difference between doing and thinking. “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” is the last book of a trilogy by an author, known by the pseudonym of Elena Ferrante. It is a book about Italy in the 1960s and 70s. As in the United States, this is a time of social upheaval in Italy. Student revolution and class warfare headline Italian media. In Italy, neo-fascists and communist parties compete for Parliamentary seats at opposite ends of the political spectrum. A neo-fascist’ party presses to capitalize on economic prosperity of the 50s while communist sympathizers rail against economic disparity between owners and workers.
The author reflects on how formal and street-wise education impacts social change. The protagonist Elena Greco is a lower class Italian that rises to fame and fortune by being the first in her family to graduate from college. She is a writer. She is a thinker. In Ferrante’s story, Greco’s first book is published to wide acclaim for its depiction of a girl growing into a woman. Greco is struggling to find her way through middle life by writing a second book. She has a tumultuous relationship with her mother who secretly admires her daughter’s accomplishment and ability. She becomes engaged, marries a rising college professor, and bares two children. However, she grows to resent her husband’s intellectual beliefs and dominating self-interest.
The author’s counter-culture character, Lila. comes from the same neighborhood as Elena but, in contrast to Elena, escapes poverty by marrying a relatively successful merchant, whom she later divorces. The divorce can be explained in different ways and for different reasons but the immediate consequence is Lila’s return to poverty. Lila did not pursue a formal education but is educated by the street. She is a doer. She is tough, insightful, and independent. She has two children, a daughter who stays with her former husband, and another, a boy, that she is pregnant with when she divorces. She, like Elena, has a tumultuous relationship with her mother. The relationship appears irreconcilable because her mother believes her a whore who left a husband that gave her security and extended family respectability. To survive, Lila breaks with her extended family, goes to work in a sausage factory, and lives with a male friend to reduce living expenses. Partly out of necessity, Lila leaves her boy with neighbors when working. Lila resents the un-shared single-woman’ burden of motherhood.
Ferrante shows life is an exercise in doing and thinking. The struggle is in balancing those two ways of dealing with the world; whether a man or a woman.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
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By Jenny on 01-05-16
An Amazing Quartet
I love these books. I came to them reluctantly, hating to follow the crowd, but I would, and frequently do, wholeheartedly recommend them to friends. The writing is wonderful without being self-conscious.
These are truly wonderful books. Weeks after reading them I am still in that Neapolitan neighbourhood, surrounded by squalor and violence to witness the palpable yearning of two little girls whose ambitions could not be contained within its boundaries.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Swedey on 06-07-18
fabulous shame about American narration
Once again, why is it narrated by an American, using American measurements, the setting is European!