It was a slow summer for reading. As I mentioned before, I filled a lot of the time I’d usually spend reading with my first viewing of Mad Men. Seven seasons, 92 episodes, and now it’s over I’m still suffering withdrawal symptoms! 😀
But I did find the time to read Elena Ferrante’s ‘Neapolitan Novels’ between July and August and I blogged about the series in my July reading round-up:
Set primarily in Naples, the four-part series follows two friends — Elena Greco and Raffaella (known as Lila) Cerullo — from childhood through to their sixties.
[…] The books are narrated from Elena Greco’s perspective and, right from the start, they immersed me in the characters’ lives. The writing is vivid and detailed, building up a picture of the gritty and often violent Neapolitan neighbourhood where Elena and Lila grow up. The intense friendship between Elena and Lila is at the heart of the series, following the paths of their lives as they grow up and begin to diverge.
The series comprises four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.
The books are written in an immersive realist style, to the point where it seems like every minute detail or conversation is expanded upon at length. This adds a lot of depth to the story and gives a real flavour of the way Naples changes over the years. However, I found myself becoming impatient with certain repetitive aspects and the way Elena’s narration rambles at times. It also made me aware that throughout the series, we mostly see through Elena’s perspective and that, at times, she is a flawed narrator.
I read the last two books in August and finished the last page a few days ago. Without giving away any spoilers, the ending is cryptic and full of symbolism. After tracing the complex friendship of Elena and Lila across six decades, there are unresolved loose ends and as a reader, you can interpret the metaphorical ending in several ways.
I was engrossed by the series, but I’m also glad to have my time freed up again so I can read other books. Spending so long with one series (and one narrator) is quite an investment of time!
Looking ahead to my September reads, I have a couple of non-fiction books lined up.
The Impostor by Javier Cercas
I’ve just started reading this — I thought it was a novel but it has turned out to be something quite different: a novel interwoven with autobiography and non-fiction. Essentially, it’s about Cercas’ experience of meeting a Spanish man — Enric Marco — who claimed to have been a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. In 2003 he became president of an association of Spanish survivors of the camps until he was unveiled as an impostor. I’m only a few chapters into the book, but so far it’s an interesting and unusual read.
Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Lagom seems to be the Swedish version of hygge, the Danish lifestyle trend that was popularised in 2016, to the point where hygge made it on to Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 ‘word of the year’ shortlist. While I’m sceptical about attempts to extrapolate cultural concepts and apply them to our own lives (more on that when I review the book), I’m also curious about other cultures and the way other people live.
What are you reading at the moment? Any recommendations?