The Story of a New Name…
Translated by Ann Goldstein
About the Book:
The Story of a New Name is an extraordinary novel about two young women, Lila and Elena, growing up in Naples in the early 1960s. At sixteen Lila marries the shopkeeper Stefano. She is filled with pleasure at her new wealth, and horror at the life she has chosen.
Elena’s own attempts at romance seem to be sabotaged by Lila’s turbulent affairs. As she tries to plot her way out of poverty via academic and literary success, her constant anxiety is that she is just a shadow of the brilliant Lila.
The sequel to My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name continues the enthralling chronicle of a friendship that is obsessive, loving, complicated, hurtful, enduring and constantly startling. It is an exhilarating reading experience.
I don’t usually read sequels and only rarely indulge in a whole series. The Story of a New Name is a case in point as to why. Reading immediately after My Brilliant Friend, which was a five-star rave read for me, this one has left me distinctly underwhelmed. We continue on with the pity party that defines Elena and to my disappointment, my adoration of Lila rapidly turned to disdain. The community aspect, along with the societal and political commentary that I loved so much within the first novel, was noticeably absent within this one, but for a few passages here and there. Instead of the literary experience of My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name seemed almost like a soap opera, and to be frank, it was tiresome and repetitive. My predictions about Nino proved spot on and with great disappointment, by about halfway through the novel, I had to resign myself to the conclusion that this great series about friendship was in fact a lie. Elena and Lila were not friends. They were two women who were accidental childhood friends, who should have parted ways years earlier, yet remained stubbornly attached to each other through habit, their interactions fueled by jealousy, narcissism, and misunderstandings. I struggled to identify the elements of friendship within their relationship. There is still, within this novel, Ferrante’s wonderful prose to appreciate, particularly with regard to some of the supporting characters and their stories, and it is for this alone that I have given it three stars. Fortunately, I was buying these books one by one, so I can stop reading now without the guilt of wasted purchases. Perhaps one day I’ll finish this series, but it won’t be for a long time yet.
About the Author:
Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of seven novels: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter, and the quartet of Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. She is one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors.
The Story of a New Name
Published by Text Publishing September 2012