The Phraser

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

The last of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels

This is a story about the dark places, and the fires, inside all of us.  It’s not new, it’s as old as Naples, but it’s told with the energy of possibility and through the eyes of women.

The Story of the Lost Child is the last book in a series of four – the Neapolitan novels.

Naples, Italy

Naples, Italy

As I see it there are two key ingredients to these books: Ferrante’s writing skills; and the people of Naples.  The writing is compelling and light, and the subject is raw, observed.

At the centre of the story is a female friendship developed over decades.  This friendship, and the women involved, become the brushes the author uses to paint in the lives and loyalties of the women’s community.

One brush is carefully fashioned, it stands back and paints in thoughtful strokes; the other is quick and sharp – it lives among the paints, it highlights, it draws the eye, it stabs the colour, it bleeds the truth outwards.

The result is a two story view of ambitions and loves, where neither escapes the stain of corruption that spreads like mould across the generations.  The canvas is vivid, dense with strangled life in the city of Naples.

It sounds bleak … perhaps the story is, but the delivery is not. The books are packed with pace and with enough mirrors to catch all of us, even to allow us to examine the writer herself, trapped by the consequences of her own creation.

It’s a story that goes right to the guts of life, and the writing, like all great writing, is so easy to read it’s almost as though it’s not there.  You don’t have to be female, or to know Naples, to be devoured by this series of novels.

Naples, Italy - 'enough mirrors to catch all of us'

Naples, Italy – ‘enough mirrors to catch all of us’