Book review: In Europe, Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak

A well-thumbed copy of In Europe by Geert Mak

A well-thumbed copy of In Europe by Geert Mak

Europe is agitated and restless – it always has been.

In Europe, by the Dutch journalist and historian Geert Mak, gives a century of context to today’s anxieties. It looks at the hundred years before the millennium, and through this window reveals the troubled heart of today’s Europe.

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Book Review: Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson


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.

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Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

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.

The Phraser

The last of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels The last of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels

This is a story about the dark places, and the fires, inside all of us.  It’s not new, it’s as old as Naples, but it’s told with the energy of possibility and through the eyes of women.

The Story of the Lost Child is the last book in a series of four – the Neapolitan novels.

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Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

A look back (first published 24 November 2015): this review is of the third of the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read them all whilst in and around Naples, Italy.

The Phraser

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante 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.

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Book Review: The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

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.

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Book Review: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

A look back (first published 24 September 2015): this book, the second of four, sustains the pace of the first – it’s a vivid read.

The Phraser

The cover of Elena Ferrante's: The Story of a New Name The cover of Elena Ferrante’s: The Story of a New Name

The Story of a New Name is the second book of the Neapolitan Novels.  It’s raw and brilliant, with a light that shines unblinking on its characters

Naples has always hung its washing to catch the air – it’s a city that knows its secrets … and so does Elena Ferrante.  In her novels she packs the unhidden into private lives and passes it on to us.

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Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

A look back (first published on 30 August 2015): since writing this review I’ve read all four of the Neapolitan Novels – none of them disappointed.

The Phraser

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This book stuck in my hands – it followed me from the outskirts of Naples, to Pozzuoli and then to a small boat anchored off the island of Procida.  I didn’t want to put it down.

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