"We were twelve years old, but we walked along the hot streets of the neighborhood, amid the dust and flies that the occasional old trucks stirred up as they passed, like two old ladies taking the measure of lives of disappointment, clinging tightly to each other. No one understood us, only we two — I thought — understood one another."
The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. They learn to rely on each other and discover that their destinies are bound up in the intensity of their relationship.
“Everything in the world was in precarious balance, pure risk, and those who didn’t agree to take the risk wasted away in a corner, without getting to know life.”
At sixteen Lila marries the shopkeeper Stefano. She is filled with pleasure at her new wealth, and horror at the life she has chosen. Elena's own attempts at romance seem to be sabotaged by Lila's turbulent affairs. As she tries to plot her way out of poverty via academic and literary success, her constant anxiety is that she is just a shadow of the brilliant Lila.
“Maturity consisted in accepting the turn that existence had taken without getting too upset"
In Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the two protagonists are now in their thirties. Lila, married at sixteen, has left her husband and the comforts of her marriage, and has now joined the workforce. Elena has left the neighbourhood in Naples, been to university, and published a successful novel, all of which has brought her into a wealthier, more cultured world. Both women are seizing opportunities to flee a life of poverty, ignorance and submission. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by an unbreakable bond...
“Every intense relationship between human beings is full of traps, and if you want it to endure you have to learn to avoid them. I did so then, and finally it seemed that I had only come up against yet another proof of how splendid and shadowy our friendship was, how long and complicated Lila’s suffering had been, how it still endured and would endure forever.”
In this final instalment, Ferrante returns to Elena and Lila, and their childhood home of Naples. Their lives are still inextricably linked, for better or worse, especially when it comes to the drama of a lost child.
Inspired by one of Elena Ferrante's earlier novels, The Lost Daughter, this is a bewitching fable for girls and boys, but also for Elena Ferrante fans of all ages. Accompanied by full-colour illustrations by Mara Cerri, The Beach At Night is a beautiful picture book narrated by a doll named Celina.
Mati is a little girl so taken by her new kitten that she forgets about her doll and leaves her on the beach. Celina endures a terrifying night, only saved by the arrival of sunrise, when her beloved Mati returns to find her.