The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

This is a coming of age story about an Italian middle-class girl called Giovanna. She lives in Naples and the story opens with her questioning the unconditional love her father has bestowed on her. She overhears her parents talking. Her father blames her failing grades on her transformed likeness to ostracized Aunt Vittoria.  This propels her on a search for her aunt and she discovers the blue-collar area of Italy. She rebels against her father as she watches her family disintegrate. Her father leaves to live with another family. In awe of her mother’s ability to forget how much she hates her father; she tries to see the good in him. Ferrante’s quick moving text charts Giovanna’s experiences from 12 to 16. She captures the extreme feelings teenagers go through and the changing perspectives and gradual understanding that comes as they mature. Motivations are first simplistically assessed. As she grows, Giovanna gains insight into the nuances and complexities that are behind human behaviour. This is a woman’s tale, with various female characters taking bit parts. Universal and biblical themes thread throughout including beauty and substance, class, love and a search for meaning. The description of the country is intricate and transports the reader. The story ends with the main character and her friend Ida deciding to “become adults as no one ever had before.”

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