Top positive review
Fascinating and Flawed
Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2020
Having read all of Ferrante, including interviews and essays and letters, it's fair to say that I'm an informed fan of her extraordinary work. This novel is lovely and powerful in terms of its character development, insights into girlhood, and burgeoning sexuality. Light years better than most fiction nowadays and within the past 40 years. Where it falls very short is in minor errors of description (A man stands next to a car; then he is behind the wheel. A woman opens a door; then she is seated). It also fails in sense of place: It could be Naples, or could be Berlin; the place names in Naples are superficial, and this exposes the likelihood that Ferrante has more knowledge of Naples as an historian rather than a writer who actually grew up there. Time, too, has little meaning: Set in the 1990s, but it could be any decade; it's as if history does not exist outside the lives of the characters. The decision to focus on the interior of the characters was of course deliberate, and is meant perhaps to show that their self-involvement is tragic; however, the cumulative result is to make the book very much a soap opera, predictable, and facile. Still, its force outweighs its flaws and, as noted, few writers accomplish nearly as much as Ferrante. Her best book remains, "Days of Abandonment," and the themes in , "The Lying Life of Adults," echo that much finer work: Betrayal, trust in men, the inadequacy of social and economic authority of women, the limitations of intellect compared to emotion. On a positive note, "The Lying Life of Adults," is a real page-turner, like any soap opera, and you can finish it in a few days.