The Story of a New Name

I enjoyed this novel much more than its predecessor, My Brilliant Friend. After finishing MBF, I was unsure if I wanted to continue to read the series (there are four). After finishing SNN, however, I cannot wait to continue reading.

The Story of a New Name picks up right where My Brilliant Friend leaves off: at Elena’s best friend, Lila’s wedding. Lila, at sixteen, has decided that the only way for her to escape the poverty of her neighborhood and family is to marry the local grocer, who has pulled himself out of poverty via hard work and determination. Elena and Lila have grown up together, constantly competing to be the brightest in their class.

With her marriage to Stefano, Lila quits school and completely devotes herself to Stefano’s business enterprises, as well as Lila’s brother, Rino’s, shoe factory. Elena is thus left alone to navigate high school and eventually college.

While grounded in everyday concerns such as clingy boyfriends, nagging mothers, and homework, the real action in The Story of a New Name takes place in Elena’s mind. The most poignant passages describe Elena’s feelings about growing up, the importance of education, and her relationship with Lila.

The Story of a New Name’s author, Elena Ferrante, made headlines recently when a scholar claimed that he had discovered her true identity (Elena Ferrante is a pen name). The author has always expressed her wish to remain anonymous, and Claudio Gatti’s apparent disregard for her wishes caused quite an uproar.

This debacle is even more interesting when one considers how Elena’s heroine, also named Elena, publishes a novel in The Story of a New Name, and describes at length the pride she feels in seeing her name in print. If Elena Ferrante feels this way, one wonders why she chose to publish under a pen name.
*SPOILER AHEAD* I cannot wait to see where the rest of these novels go (there are two more in the series). I will say, if Elena ends up with Nino, which I am starting to believe may happen, I will be very disappointed because of Nino’s previous relationship with Lila. If, however, Elena ends up with someone else, I will continue to enjoy these novels. I highly recommend them to anyone, in particular any women with close female friends that they have spent their life growing up with.
 
-A
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