Cities are like people … some are packed with character, and others less so.
The city of Naples in Italy is a character, one that can raise you to heaven or leave you in despair. Johann Goethe was ecstatic; Mark Twain fairly grumpy; Shirley Hazzard inspired; and Elena Ferrante fierce and irresistible. Now, published in 2016, here’s Katherine Wilson whose style goes straight to the heart of the city.
A look back: this piece was first published on 12 February 2016. I can still feel the sunshine of that walk, and the satisfaction of being able to ask for help in simple Italian. The embarrassing part is that, a year on, the book I took such trouble to hunt down is still not finished … plus I’ve discovered my weary dictionary isn’t big enough for Enzo Striano.
This post, a review of the last of Elena Ferrante’s novels about Naples, Italy, was first published on 16 January 2016. I read all four books in this series while I lived on the outskirts of Naples. Thanks to Ferrante I was shown inside the city, inside what links us all.
A look back (first published on 6 January 2016): Naples is not a ‘do-in-a-day-city’ – it’s a city with roots, a city that takes time, a city that feels like it might be time itself. Even Goethe lost his rhythm here.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
This book, the third in the series, has an ache in it that grows as the story lengthens. It is about the absence of love and belonging, and the complications of motherhood.
The themes belong to us all and Ferrante intensifies them against the backdrop of Naples. She paints her story with the city’s colours, chosen for their truth from a palette that other cities struggle to match.
This little book, which I met first in the bookstore at the airport in Napoli, dropped its hero into my life like a coin into a pool. He span so deep and so fast that he was almost lost … until, from nowhere, a sudden current pulled him out of sight.