1. The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante
At the beginning of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, Lila Cerullo and Elena Greco are two little girls playing with dolls on the streets of their rough Naples neighborhood. By the final installment, against all odds, Elena is a respected novelist and Lila a tech entrepreneur. Their lives play out against a backdrop of political tumult, mob violence, the women’s movement and countless other upheavals of the late 20th century. But Ferrante’s novels, culminating in this year’s wrenching Story of the Lost Child, stick brilliantly to their focus: the bond between two complex women whose ambition and charisma at times unite them, and at times bitterly divide them.