From October 1976 until 1979, when I returned to Naples to live, I avoided resuming a steady relationship with Lila. But it wasn't easy. She almost immediately tried to reenter my life with force, and I ignored her, tolerated her, endured her. Even if she acted as if there were nothing she wanted more than to be close to me at a difficult moment, I couldn't forget the contempt with which she had treated me.
Today I think that if it had been only the insult that wounded me - You're an idiot, she had shouted on the telephone when I told her about Nino, and she had never, ever spoken to me like that before - I would have soon calmed down. In reality, what mattered more than that offense was the mention of Dede and Elsa. Think of the harm you are doing to your daughters, she had warned me, and at that moment I had paid no attention. But over time those words acquired greater weight, and I returned to them often. Lila had never displayed the slightest interest in Dede or Elsa; almost certainly she didn't even remember their names. If, on the phone, I mentioned some intelligent remark they made, she cut me off, changed the subject. And when she met them for the first time, at the house of Marcello Solara, she had confined herself to an absentminded glance and a few pat phrases - she hadn't paid the least attention to how nicely they were dressed, how neatly their hair was combed, how well both were able to express themselves, although they were both still small. And yet I had given birth to them, I had brought them up, they were part of me, who had been her friend forever: she should have taken this into account - I won't say out of affection, but at least out of politeness - for my maternal pride. Yet she hadn't even attempted a little good-natured sarcasm; she had displayed indifference and nothing more. Only now - out of jealousy, surely, because I had taken Nino - did she remember the girls, and wanted to emphasize that I was a terrible mother, that although I was happy, I was causing them unhappiness. The minute I thought about it I became anxious. Had Lila worried about Gennaro when she left Stefano, when she abandoned the child to the neighbor because of her work in the factory, when she sent him to me as if to get him out of the way? Ah, I had my faults, but I was certainly more a mother than she was.The Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante
The two paragraphs above are actually the entire first chapter of this book, the fourth and final installment of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels. If the first 25 chapters are any indication, this may be the best one yet. I am enthralled.
The blurb includes spoilers, but this portion describes the series in general:
Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives.Are you tempted by these novels?
Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.