Reviews for The Lying Life Of Adults

by Elena Ferrante

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In the late 1970s in Naples, 12-year-old Giovanna overhears her father say that "she's getting the face of Vittoria." Giovanna hasn't met her father's sister, but her parents invoke the woman's name "like the name of a monstrous being who taints and infects anyone who touches her." And so, on the precipice of puberty, Giovanna decides to meet her aunt and discover the reasons for this surely unflattering comparison. Fans of Ferrante's first two Neopolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend (2012) and The Story of a New Name (2013), will especially revel in Giovanna's confessional, perceptive, gut-wrenching, and often funny narration of what she calls her "arduous approach to the adult world." Vittoria introduces Giovanna to a Naples outside of her upscale neighborhood and school, to sex and romance, to new people, and to the idea that her parents might sometimes be wrong. How wrong, however, becomes a relative question as her parents separate, and Giovanna navigates her new household; the moods of fiery, loving Vittoria; and the cyclone of her developing self. When an adult, struggling to explain herself, tells Giovanna, "The truth is difficult, growing up you'll understand that, novels aren't sufficient for it," readers will smile, sigh, and agree to disagree.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An overheard remark prompts an adolescent girl to uncover the truth about her relatives (and herself) in Ferrante’s precise dissection of one family’s life in Naples. Upon hearing her father refer to her, disparagingly, as having the same face as a despised and estranged relative, 12-year-old Giovanna, previously a good student and affectionate daughter, embarks on an odyssey of detection and discovery through areas of Naples from which her educated and progressive parents have shielded her. Desperate to determine whether she, indeed, resembles the abhorred Aunt Vittoria, Giovanna seeks out her father’s sister and develops a fraught relationship with the troubled woman. The process of untangling generations of internecine deceit and rivalry—including the provenance of a peripatetic heirloom bracelet—leads Giovanna to truths about the conventional lies told by her parents and to decisions about how she wishes to conduct her own, not-yet-adult, life. (The bracelet appears to have mutable properties and serves as either charm or handcuff, just another thing to ask the enigmatic author about over coffee.) Ferrante revisits previously explored themes—violence against women, female friendships, the corrosive effects of class disparities—albeit in a more rarified sector of Naples (the privileged “upper” neighborhood of Rione Alto) than in her earlier Neapolitan Quartet. Giovanna’s nascent sexuality is more frankly explored than that of previous Ferrante protagonists, permitting the author to highlight two sides of teen sexuality: agency and abuse. Goldstein’s fluid translation once again allows readers into the head of a young woman recalling with precision and emotion a series of events which lead to a point of confession. Ferrante’s legion of devoted readers will be encouraged by another equivocal ending, permitting the hope of further exploration of Giovanna’s journey in future volumes. A girl, a city, an inhospitable society: Ferrante’s formula works again! Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An overheard remark prompts an adolescent girl to uncover the truth about her relatives (and herself) in Ferrantes precise dissection of one familys life in Naples.Upon hearing her father refer to her, disparagingly, as having the same face as a despised and estranged relative, 12-year-old Giovanna, previously a good student and affectionate daughter, embarks on an odyssey of detection and discovery through areas of Naples from which her educated and progressive parents have shielded her. Desperate to determine whether she, indeed, resembles the abhorred Aunt Vittoria, Giovanna seeks out her fathers sister and develops a fraught relationship with the troubled woman. The process of untangling generations of internecine deceit and rivalryincluding the provenance of a peripatetic heirloom braceletleads Giovanna to truths about the conventional lies told by her parents and to decisions about how she wishes to conduct her own, not-yet-adult, life. (The bracelet appears to have mutable properties and serves as either charm or handcuff, just another thing to ask the enigmatic author about over coffee.) Ferrante revisits previously explored themesviolence against women, female friendships, the corrosive effects of class disparitiesalbeit in a more rarified sector of Naples (the privileged upper neighborhood of Rione Alto) than in her earlier Neapolitan Quartet. Giovannas nascent sexuality is more frankly explored than that of previous Ferrante protagonists, permitting the author to highlight two sides of teen sexuality: agency and abuse. Goldsteins fluid translation once again allows readers into the head of a young woman recalling with precision and emotion a series of events which lead to a point of confession. Ferrantes legion of devoted readers will be encouraged by another equivocal ending, permitting the hope of further exploration of Giovannas journey in future volumes.A girl, a city, an inhospitable society: Ferrantes formula works again! Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A single comment can change a life, or for Giovanna, the adolescent only child of a middle-class Neapolitan couple in the early 1990s and narrator of Ferrante’s sumptuous latest (after The Story of the Lost Child), it can set it in motion. “She’s getting the face of Vittoria,” Giovanna’s father, Andrea, says about her, referring to Giovanna’s estranged aunt Vittoria, whom Andrea disdains and calls ugly. The comment provokes Giovanna into seeking out Vittoria on the other side of Naples, where she finds a beautiful, fiery woman, consumed by bitterness over a lover’s death and resentful of Andrea’s arrogance at having climbed the social ladder. Andrea can’t save Giovanna from Vittoria’s influence, and their relationship will affect those closest to Giovanna as family secrets unravel and disrupt the harmony of her quiet life. Giovanna’s parents’ devastating marital collapse, meanwhile, causes her to be distracted at school and held back a year, and prompts Giovanna into a steely self-awareness as she has her first sexual experiences along a bumpy ride toward adulthood. Themes of class disparity and women’s coming-of-age are at play much as they were in Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, but the depictions of inequality serve primarily as a backdrop to Giovanna’s coming-of-age trials that buttress the gripping, plot-heavy tale. While this feels minor in comparison to Ferrante’s previous work, Giovanna is the kind of winning character readers wouldn’t mind seeing more of. (Sept.)


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In the late 1970s in Naples, 12-year-old Giovanna overhears her father say that "she's getting the face of Vittoria." Giovanna hasn't met her father's sister, but her parents invoke the woman's name "like the name of a monstrous being who taints and infects anyone who touches her." And so, on the precipice of puberty, Giovanna decides to meet her aunt and discover the reasons for this surely unflattering comparison. Fans of Ferrante's first two Neopolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend (2012) and The Story of a New Name (2013), will especially revel in Giovanna's confessional, perceptive, gut-wrenching, and often funny narration of what she calls her "arduous approach to the adult world." Vittoria introduces Giovanna to a Naples outside of her upscale neighborhood and school, to sex and romance, to new people, and to the idea that her parents might sometimes be wrong. How wrong, however, becomes a relative question as her parents separate, and Giovanna navigates her new household; the moods of fiery, loving Vittoria; and the cyclone of her developing self. When an adult, struggling to explain herself, tells Giovanna, "The truth is difficult, growing up you'll understand that, novels aren't sufficient for it," readers will smile, sigh, and agree to disagree.

Back