The Story of a New Name (Neapolitan Novels #2)
August 12, 2016 2:25 AM - by Elena Ferrante - Subscribe

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 sometimes cruel price that this passage exacts.

(Original title: Storia del nuovo cognome; In Italian the series, considered by Ferrante to be "a single novel", goes by the name of the first volume, L'amica geniale, discussed here.)

Lenù and Lila's story becomes becomes almost fractal - the closer/deeper Elena inquires, the more their respective facets lead her on, unendingly - and meta: we end up with a book inside a book inside the book.
posted by progosk (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks for making these posts! I have a question in the previous thread that I hope you'll be able to answer.
posted by languagehat at 11:22 AM on August 15, 2016

Tried to, lh - see if I hit the mark.

Counterquestion, actually (while we're on names over there): why isn't this volume's title "Story of a new surname", as the original would warrant? Is the ill-suited "family name" so much more current, and "surname" just too British?
posted by progosk at 2:09 PM on August 15, 2016

Yeah, no American has ever used the word "surname" except in official/academic contexts and it would make for a horrible title. The Story of a New Name is a great title.
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Story of a New Name is a great title.

I agree. Since the book picks up exactly where the first leaves off, at Lila's wedding (and the beginning of her new name), the title makes all sorts of sense to me.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:47 PM on August 15, 2016

This is probably my personal favorite of the four, though maybe not the actual best volume. There's a lot of talk about how EF captures female friendship in such an exceptional and nuanced way, but everything about the Ischia sequence is a depiction for me of something from my past that I've never really seen as well in literature before. "Today I feel some uneasiness in recalling how much I suffered, I have no sympathy for myself of that time."

I looked up my Kindle highlights from this book with the intention of posting here and instead got sucked into a reread of half of this book and most of the third volume.

"On Monday Nino appeared, like a ghost evoked by my desire" -- gets me every time.
posted by telegraph at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

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