The Irish Times

Ebook reviews: Discovering new worlds with #womenintranslation

My various digital devices, meanwhile, made reading Elena Ferrante’s much-lauded Naples Quadrilogy (Kindle Edition, £4.80 each) much easier. If I hadn’t also insisted on buying the paperback editions, for €18 each, it would have also saved me a fortune.

The books chart the relationship between two childhood friends over 40 years. As the narrator, Elena Greco, abandons her working-class roots for an intellectual life, Ferrante artfully charts the changes in post-war Italian society: the class struggle, the continued vice grip of Fascism, and the role of women within a notoriously patriarchal culture.

An enormous cast of characters appear and reappear over more than 1,200 pages, and Ferrante cleverly provides a cast list, grouped by family, at the start of each book. I found the character-map much easier to access in paperback than in ebook form, where the scrolling distracted me from the thrust of the story.

The books – particularly the first two parts, My Brilliant Friend and The Story of the Lost Child – are as addictive as a soap-opera, and Ferrante ends both with the sort of cliff-hanger that can only be satisfied by an instant progression to the next book. Here, the digital versions won out, allowing me to jump from one instalment to the next without getting up from the couch.