From the publisher:
The second book, following last year’s My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the cruel price that this passage exacts.
Life is like that: one day you’re getting hit, the next kissed.
This quote essentially sums up much of The Story of a New Name. We continue our journey with Elena and Lila from their late teen years into early womanhood, and we see this dichotomy literally with the men in their lives, and figuratively as their friendship evolves. The women endure frightening amounts of physical abuse at the hands of men, and Ferrante’s prose is a biting and honest as in My Brilliant Friend:
I had a confused need for that aggression. The vise on my wrist, the fear that he would hit me, that river of painful words ended by consoling me: it seemed to me that at least he valued me.
Elena and Lila experience many of the milestones that tend to come with this stage in life: love, children, career. This book is highly relatable at moments; Ferrante writes women like no other and isn’t afraid to put to paper thoughts that are too ugly to say aloud. In others movements, however, this reads like an Italian soap opera: affairs, pregnancies as a result of the affairs, and a cast of characters that are indecisive and confused about their lives.
Elena and Lila are a mess of the best kind, I can’t wait to see how these women behave in their more adult years.