THE STORY OF A NEW NAME

From the Neapolitan Novels series , Vol. 2

Admirers of Ferrante’s work will eagerly await the third volume.

Roman à clef by the reclusive author who writes under the name Elena Ferrante (The Lost Daughter, 2008, etc.): a beautifully written portrait of a sometimes difficult friendship.

Set, as is so much of her work, in her native Naples, Italy, Ferrante’s latest is a study in the possibility of triumph over disappointment. Its narrator, Elena Greco, is the daughter of a man who has managed by dint of hard work to rise only to the lowly position of porter at the city government building. Elena is brilliant, but less so than her friend Raffaella Cerullo, called—confusingly, for readers without Italian—Lila or Lina depending on who is talking. Both women, born in the year of liberation, 1944, are ambitious, whip-smart, as at home in the pages of Aristotle as in the hills of their still-battered city. Their native milieu is poor and barely literate, but both have emerged from it, despite the distractions afforded by the boys they like and the violence occasionally visited by those whom they don’t. Lina has always outpaced Elena in every way, not least intellectually; as Elena recalls, “I saw that after half a page of the philosophy textbook she was able to find surprising connections between Anaxagoras, the order that the intellect imposes on the chaos of things, and Mendeleev’s tables.” That chaos, in the first volume of the trilogy to which this volume belongs, swept Lina away from her ambitions toward a domesticity that seems almost arbitrary, while Elena, the very definition of a survivor, forged on. Lina, it appears, will always consider her the lesser of equals, someone who, Elena frets, “couldn’t even imagine that I might change.” Yet, as Ferrante recounts, it is late-blooming Elena whose turn it is to flourish, despite setbacks and false starts; this second book closes with her embarking on what promises to be a brilliant literary career and with the hint that true love may not be far behind.

Admirers of Ferrante’s work will eagerly await the third volume.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60945-134-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

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Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

THE UNSEEN

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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