Mini-Review: “The Lying Life of Adults”

The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante

In short: I loved it! An intense, passionate, honest, vulgar, and sublime poetic telling of the young girl’s coming-of-age in crime-ridden Naples.

Imagine Holden Caulfield but female, and written as a collaboration between Charles Bukowski and Charles Dickens–with Bukowski having the upper hand. One hell of a runaway train ride, till the protagonist, Giovanna, finally takes the controls from her Aunt Vittoria, an indescribable character who is violent, loving, erratic, and bitter, and who actually resembles someone from the Italian half of my background.

The story is about empowerment, hypocrisy, men “who are all shits,” and, ultimately, a reluctant transcendence.

It’s strong stuff; the peppers in the stew have not been seeded, but if you can take the heat, you’ll find it nourishing.

I’ve read Ferrante now several times in Goldstein’s translations but also in a Spanish translation (which brought it even closer to home, as I am from Argentina); her voice bullies its way through any impediment. A marvelous writer, a gift, a Promethean flame, a poet. I know opinion is already divided on this work, but I read it almost straight through, and I’m sorry it’s over.

Rick Risemberg