Publisher’s Weekly

Publisher’s Weekly Best-Books 2014

Those Who leave and Those Who Stay

Elena ferrante, trans. from the italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa)

Ferrante’s series of Neapolitan novels has cemented its place as one of the greatest in modern fiction.

This third installment, which follows the evolving and complicated relationship between girlhood friends Elena and Lila, is the best so far.

The New Yorker

Out Loud: The Mysterious Power of Elena Ferrante

Last year, James Wood reviewed two novels by the Italian author Elena Ferrante: “The Days of Abandonment” and “My Brilliant Friend,” the first volume in Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, about two women, Lila and Elena, struggling to escape the violence and misogyny of their Naples upbringing. Wespoke back then with Wood and Ferrante’s translator, Ann Goldstein (who is also a New Yorker editor) about those books, and about the mystery surrounding Ferrante’s identity. Since then, two more Neapolitan novels have been published in English: “The Story of a New Name” and “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” which came out in English earlier this month. On this week’s Out Loud, host Sasha Weiss, the literary editor of, speaks with Goldstein and the staff writer D. T. Max—one of many Ferrante devotees atThe New Yorker—about the radical emotional intensity of the series. Max says, of Lila and Elena’s friendship, “I can’t think of a counterpart in British or American letters. It’s so ornery, it’s so fraught, it’s so rich. It’s full of ironies, confusions, back-trackings, moments where you think you get it and then you don’t.”

You can listen to the episode above or by downloading it for free from iTunes. Click here for more New Yorker podcasts.

The New York Times

A Connection as Vital as It Is Toxic

Elena Ferrante’s ‘Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay’


Nothing you read about Elena Ferrante’s work prepares you for the ferocity of it. And with each new novel in her revelatory Neapolitan series, she unprepares you all over again. The story follows the lifelong friendship-hateship of Lila and Elena, two women from an impoverished neighborhood in Naples, a city that “seemed to harbor in its guts a fury that couldn’t get out and therefore eroded it from the inside.”

The residents live out their lives in the shadow of Vesuvius, but Ms. Ferrante’s characters have no time to worry about volatile volcanoes. Closer things are constantly falling down, falling apart, falling away. “My Brilliant Friend,” the first of the series, opens with Lila throwing Elena’s only doll into the cellar of Don Achille, a loan shark the children fear like an “ogre of fairy tales.” The tormented bond of the girls is established with that one toss, which also anticipates the power struggles in every relationship depicted in these novels.

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Wall Street Journal


Book Review: ‘Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay’ by Elena Ferrante

A startlingly frank portrait of a friendship between two women struggling to reinvent themselves.


Sept. 5, 2014 5:03 p.m. ET

Encountering someone you haven’t seen for decades can be pretty shocking, but how much more so if they’re lying dead in front of you. In the opening of Elena Ferrante’s latest novel, “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” two Neapolitan women around the age of 60, Lila Cerullo and Elena Greco, are taking a walk together early one morning on the stradone when a young man shouts that a body has been found in a flower bed by the church.
Elena doesn’t recognize the corpse, but Lila does. It’s their childhood friend Gigliola, a beauty who married a rich, powerful man from the neighborhood. But the body in the flower bed is overweight, clad in a shabby green raincoat; her face is a ruin, and one of her shoes has been kicked off to reveal a gray stocking with a hole at the big toe.

As Gigliola’s body is taken away, Elena wonders what had happened to her. “I thought of that face in profile on the dirt, of how thin the long hair was, of the whitish patches of skull. How many who had been girls with us were no longer alive, had disappeared from the face of the earth because of illness, because their nervous systems had been unable to endure the sandpaper of torments, because their blood had been spilled.”

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The Independent

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein, book review

JONATHAN GIBBS Author Biography

 Thursday 04 September 2014


This is the third of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, a series of four books following two friends from their childhood in a poor Naples neighbourhood far into adult life, until one of them – Lila, the “brilliant friend” of the first book’s title – decides to disappear “without a trace”.

It is left to Elena, an author with Greene’s splinter of ice lodged firmly in her heart, to do what she always promised she never would: put her friend in a book, in an attempt to understand not just her, but the two of them.

Book two – The Story of a New Name – ended with Lila fleeing from her abusive marriage and good job running a fashionable boutique, and working in a sausage factory on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile Elena, having written a novel almost by accident, and found herself a succès de scandale, is living the life of a public author, riding high on the revolutionary wave of the late 1960s.

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Publishers Weekly

The Big Indie Books of Fall 2014


Small and university presses have long been an integral part of the literary landscape. But as large houses—Random House and Penguin, Harper and Harlequin—continue to consolidate, the idiosyncratic viewpoints often represented by indies are more important than ever.

I typically scour the small, indie, and university press catalogues as early as possible,” says Jonathon Welch, cofounder of Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, N.Y. “Independent and university presses are cauldrons of both innovation and tradition, of the best, most interesting, and/or the most challenging writing and thinking. We need them and savor them for what they bring into the fields of our endeavor—diversity and distinction.”

That diversity is on display this season with books ranging from The Business of Naming Things, a story collection by Michael Coffey, PW’s former co-editorial director, to Lit Up Inside, a collection of Van Morrison’s lyrics that the singer/songwriter specifically wanted published by City Lights and its founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti. There are also many fine essay collections, including Rebecca Solnit’s Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, on history and justice.

In children’s books, Seven Stories is publishing The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature, a follow-up to its three-volume The Graphic Canon. And Grammy-winning songwriter Cynthia Weilhas a novel for teens titled I’m Glad I Did, as well as four related songs that she’ll be performing on tour.

Below is a selection of the many outstanding university and small press titles due out this fall. Some were buzzed about at BEA this past June, and more than a few have received starred reviews fromPW. Links to reviews are provided when available.


(dist. by PRH)

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Huffington Post

PW Picks: Books of the Week, September 1, 2014

‘Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay’ by Elena Ferrante, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa)

Surpassing the rapturous storytelling of the previous titles in the Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name), Ferrante here reunites Elena and Lila, two childhood friends, who dissect subjects as complicated as their own relationship, including feminism and class, men and women, mothers and children, sex and violence, and origin and destiny. As the narrative unfolds in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the fiery Lila stays in Naples, having escaped an abusive marriage, and lives platonically with a man from the neighborhood, along with her young, possibly illegitimate son. The feisty Elena leaves town, graduates from a university in Pisa, publishes a successful book, marries an upper-class professor, and moves to Florence, where she gives birth to two daughters. Against the backdrop of student revolution and right-wing reaction, the two women’s tumultuous friendship seesaws up and down as each tries to outdo the other.


8 Books You Need to Read This September

Each month, Boris Kachka will offer nonfiction and fiction book recommendations, and you should read as many of them as possible.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante (Europa, September 2)
Having taken on a pseudonym that inspires Pynchon-level conspiracy theories, the Italian novelist — whoever she (he?) is — may not want fame, but she deserves it. This third installment in her Neapolitan series, which tracks two friends on divergent paths — urbane writer Elena and self-taught dropout Lila — finds them navigating the age of motherhood and activism. (It’s the ’70s, and Italy seems to be breaking apart.) Start with the first book, My Brilliant Friend, and you’ll be caught up before the fourth and final installment makes its way into English.


25 Must-Read Books For the Fall

By Elisabeth Donnelly on

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante (September 2)

The most psychologically astute writer of the feminine in a good long while, the reclusive Italian Ferrante (of course, rumors persist that she is a male) has made fans of writers with great taste like Claire Messud, and her Neopolitan novels have captured the hearts of readers with their powerful renderings of what it’s like for a woman. In this edition, the characters from My Brilliant Friend, Lila and Elena are now in their twenties. Seeing their lives unfold has been spellbinding.

Early word

Who IS Elena Ferrante?

The new issue of Entertainment Weekly challenges readers with the question, “Do YOU Know Elena Ferrante?” (story not online yet).

If you don’t, you’re in good company. It turns out the author of this “rare interview” with Ferrante (Vogue also has one this month) hadn’t heard of her either until this summer, although “the Italian author’s urgent, blistering fiction has made her something of a cult sensation here in America.”

Attesting to that cult status, the New Yorker‘s redoubtable criticJames Wood profiled Ferrante last year calling her “one of Italy’s best-known least-known contemporary writers … Compared with Ferrante, Thomas Pynchon is a publicity profligate.” Just last week, the New York Times Magazine asked three authors to address the question, “Who is Elena Ferrante?
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Shelf Awareness

Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, $18 trade paper, 9781609452339, September 2, 2014)

Those Who Leave and Those Who StayThe third volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels series opens with the last time protagonist Elena, a celebrated novelist, will ever see her best friend. In My Brilliant Friend, they grew up from childhood; in the second volume, The Story of a New Name, they found husbands. Now they’re in their 60s; Lila’s hair has turned white. As the two women walk down the sidewalk, they come upon a crowd gathered around a woman who has fallen dead in a flowerbed near the church. Readers of the earlier novels will recognize this character, having watched her grow up alongside Elena and Lila. Naples is changing. In fact, all of Italy is in political turmoil.

Lila was once the brilliant and creative entrepreneur of a handmade footwear company. Now she works a brutal job on the floor of a sausage factory and lives in a rundown building with her son. She urges Elena to leave her out of her writing. Elena does just the opposite. And with that, the story plunges back 40 years, picking up at Elena’s book-signing, which concluded the previous novel. When her old flame Nino shows up at the party, Elena is prepared to risk everything for him, including her engagement to another man.

Meanwhile Nino’s father has recognized himself in one of Elena’s “fictional” characters–a predatory family man–and published a condemning review of her novel. The plot twists and turns as relationships deepen, change and sometimes explode. Children begin to resemble their parents. Lila’s son, assumed to be fathered by Nino, starts looking very much like someone else. The two women are growing in opposite directions: Lila gets caught up in the struggle for workers’ rights while her friend becomes a famous debut novelist. Elena’s attempts to escape the gossip and small minds of the old neighborhood fail as forces of the past drag her home to try to save her younger sister from a disastrous marriage.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is as sumptuous as its two predecessors, and the narrative drive here is the strongest yet. The stakes are high, with the introduction of protesting workers, student activists and babes in arms. Ferrante’s genius lies in her startling emotional realism and blunt honesty about social interactions. As her series–which is best taken as a whole–moves forward and reflects European history, she seasons the prose with provocative perceptions not unlike the way Proust did, but her neighborhood of squalid blue-collar lives and passionate secrets is pure Italian soap opera raised to a loftier level of literary art. —Nick DiMartino, Nick’s Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Shelf Talker: In Italian author Elena Ferrante’s third Neapolitan Novel, two lifelong friends are caught up in political upheaval, a novelist’s notoriety and the complicated web of the past.

Los Angeles Review of Books

Martha Ronk on Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Ferocious Friendship

September 2nd, 2014RESET+

THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY, the third volume in Elena Ferrante’s seductive Neapolitan series, continues the story of two women whose lives intersect, parallel, antagonize, and support one another as if they are mirrored halves of one creature. Taken together, the volumes follow the two from their lives as girls in Naples, Italy, through their teens and twenties, in which one marries young while the other pursues university studies, and on to their early adult lives. Each volume flames into life in those moments in which the narrator, Elena Greco, loses herself in her childhood companion, Lila Cerullo, using her as negative model, as brilliant muse, the one who defines and witnesses, “the one without whom….” Many women, perhaps especially as children, have such an attachment — intense, familiar, all-encompassing. Although the title suggests separation, in truth, the one left behind expresses herself in full force whether present or absent, and the one who leaves stays attached.

The two women meet on page one of this third volume in a future glimpse of them as old women, one skin and bones, one gaining weight: “Yet I loved her, and when I came to Naples I always tried to see her, even though, I have to say, I was a little afraid of her.” The opening pages here also contain the violence, both bodily and psychically, that runs through all the books. The women chance upon the ruined corpse of a childhood friend once married to the powerfully cruel head of the Solara family. A shoe lies beyond, “as if she had lost it kicking against some pain or fear.”
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Los Angeles Times


Women’s paths diverge in Elena Ferrante’s epic ‘Those Who Leave’


I first encountered Elena Ferrante’s fierce, singular voice in her second novel, “The Days of Abandonment,” an unrelenting exploration of a woman whose husband has left her. In her newest novel, “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” the third of her quartet of “Neapolitan novels,” we come up for air.

Centered on the friendship between Elena Greco, the protagonist, and Lila Cerullo, her childhood friend, “Those Who Leave” seamlessly braids those same urgent domestic concerns with the volatile political landscape of Italy in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,’ by Elena Ferrante


The eminent belle-lettrist Stephen Dobyns once observed that to write a novel, all one needs are “a handful of names and a street map.” In the case of Italian author Elena Ferrante’s “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” (the third in her “Neapolitan Novels”), those names are now well established for her growing fan base — and so is the map.

Ferrante, who conceals her own real name and personal particulars, has created an oeuvre that’s taken the literary world by the hair. Her grip has not relaxed; in fact, hair-on-fire intensity defines all her work. (See James Wood’s brilliant analysis, “Women on the Verge,” in the Jan. 21, 2013, New Yorker.)

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The Slate Book Review

A Counter-Melody

Elena Ferrante’s brilliant, riveting novels about female friendship.