an amazing character study… alas, one in which many happenings are foreshadowed, but almost none occur.
you have to be in the mood for this kind of book. you have to be up for a minute anatomization of character, relationships, neighborhood sociology. it’s sort of like an Austen book–all about the people, the societal constraints, written in beautiful sentences with deep insight and wide understanding.
it’s fundamentally the coming-of-age story of two girls. in itself this is wonderful–few writers of Ferrante’s caliber have written with such sensitivity about the feelings and perceptions of girls. as the two girls grow, their paths diverge–one into marriage, the other into scholarship–and the tensions between them split their intense bond.
but unlike an Austen novel, not much really seems to happen. events do not add up to larger consequences. things arise and fall back into the murk without any eventual significance. it’s frustrating, like waiting for a gun to go off.
and maybe i’m a shallow reader, but i find many of the characters fairly predictable and boring. they’re adolescents for much of the book, and while adolescence is certainly all-consuming for the adolescent, i’m not sure how much it can illuminate the life of an adult. Austen’s (late) adolescents are at least redeemed by their wit and perspicacity, generally; Ferrante’s struggle tongue-tied in the murk like real adolescents.
i guess it says something when the nearest comparison one can imagine is an Austen novel at all. but what i wouldn’t have given for something to just happen in this book.