The Guardian

Illustration by Ben Lamb 

‘Course it’s a her, don’t be silly. How would a man understand the truth of girls’ friendships?’

Really? Not even My Brilliant Friend? You’re so lucky you’ve got the whole series ahead of you, and you haven’t even got to wait for her to finish. Look, take this one. I always carry a spare copy in case I find someone hasn’t discovered her, though you must be the last person in London. Or in case I want to be in 50s Naples again – you can practically smell the laundry drying in the streets.

Yes, I am an evangelist, but it’s not just me: everyone who reads Ferrante is a Ferrante evangelist – Rachel Cusk, James Wood, you name it. It’s hard to explain – just the accuracy about women’s experience and friendships, that searing rivalry that goes along with the love and almost physical passion. There’s this incredible scene when Lena bathes Lila before her – sorry, spoiler alert – you know that kind of deep, love-hate thing between women? Well, even if you don’t, which actually I don’t believe, she’s such an incredible storyteller. There’s this huge cast of characters, like the terrifying murderer Don Pingu, the handsome gangster Pinocchio, lame Cappuccino the shoemaker and mad old Nuttina with her 95 children.

Who said anything about Mean Girls meets One Hundred Years Of Solitude? Ferrante’s a total original. That’s why it’s so brilliant she’s up for the International Booker, even if people are saying they’re just trying to flush her out. Nobody knows who she is! Course it’s not a stunt – the books speak for themselves. Even if I knew who she was, I’d be obsessed with her, but it does make you admire her even more, that she won’t play the whole promotional game.

Course it’s a her, don’t be silly. How would a man understand the truth of girls’ friendships, the way they are this cauldron of seething jealousy, along with that almost erotic connection as their lithe, young bodies ripen into sumptuous matronhood? I haven’t even mentioned the brilliant translation.

You’ll see, in a month, I promise you won’t be able to think or talk about anything but Ferrante, unless it’s Karl Ove Knausgaard. Really? Not even A Death In The Family? Lucky!