I was fortunate enough to discover Elena Ferrante’s novels with no preconceptions. If you are in this position now, I would ask you to stop reading this review, cancel whatever else you have planned and take yourself away to a quiet corner to fall into her world. If you do this, not only will you discover the sprawling streets of Naples, but her words will reveal to you hidden secrets about yourself and the women around you.
Ferrante’s novels illuminate the complex layers of femininity that are so rarely revealed, and she is the kind of storyteller who makes you want to write and yet give up any hope of writing all at once. The Lying Life of Adults once again reveals the hidden emotions and narratives that take place inside the minds and lives of women. The novel tells the story of Giovanna, a quiet, studious, 12-year-old, who overhears a throwaway comment likening her to her estranged Aunt Vittoria, someone her father has continuously monsterised. Giovanna becomes obsessed with this comment, and discovers its truth, which sets off a chain of events which transform her understanding of the adults around her and her own fluctuating identity.
The novel follows Giovanna through her adolescence as she sheds her childhood illusions and discovers the deceptions of adult life. It is perhaps apt that Ferrante, who hid her own identity for many years, has chosen this story of the tangle of deceptions we weave around ourselves as her first novel to be released postunmasking.
This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of SNACK magazine. You can read the full magazine below on your smartphone, tablet, or pc.