Now an HBO series, book four in the New York Times bestselling Neapolitan quartet about two friends in post-war Italy is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted epic by one of today's most beloved and acclaimed writers, Elena Ferrante, “one of the great novelists of our time.” (Roxana Robinson, The New York Times)
Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives. Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. But now, she has returned to Naples to be with the man she has always loved. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Yet somehow this proximity to a world she has always rejected only brings her role as unacknowledged leader of that world into relief.
Ferrante is one of the world’s great storytellers. With the Neapolitan quartet she has given her readers an abundant, generous, and masterfully plotted page-turner that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight readers for many generations to come.
In Ferrante's fourth and final Neapolitan novel, she reunites Elena, the accomplished writer, with Lila, the indomitable spirit, in their Southern Italian city as they confront maturity and old age, death, and the meaning of life. The two friends face the chaos of a corrupt and decaying Naples while the lives of the people closest to them plagued by abandonment, imprisonment, murder, and betrayal spiral out of control. "Where is it written that lives should have a meaning?" Lila asks Elena, disparaging her friend's career choice in the process. Readers will need the accompanying index of characters to keep track as Ferrante resolves the themes and events from earlier titles (My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) with a force and ferocity recalling the devastating earthquake of 1980 and Vesuvius's volcanic eruptions, which themselves provide the unsettling background to the narrative. Ferrante's precise foreshadowing is such that an early incident of a lost doll in book one mirrors the lost child in book four right down to their shared first name and "The Blue Fairy," the story Lila scribbled in a childhood notebook that Elena threw in the Arno, resurfaces in this installment's final pages. Throughout, there's the sense of the circle completing: near the end, Elena pens a short novel entitled "A Friendship" (a metafictional nod to Ferrante's series as a whole), inspired by her half-century relationship with Lila. The novel is Elena's final work and permanently ties Elena and Lila together, for better and worse. This stunning conclusion further solidifies the Neapolitan novels as Ferrante's masterpiece and guarantees that this reclusive author will remain far from obscure for years to come.