Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name is the second book in her Neapolitan Novels quartet. Unlike the first novel, My Brilliant Friend, which follows its main characters through childhood and adolescence, The Story of a New Name recounts their experiences in early adulthood. It is a necessary continuation of Elena and Lila’s story, this time with a much heavier focus on Lila.
From the jacket:
In The Story of a New Name, Lila has recently married and made her entrée into the family business; Elena, meanwhile, continues her studies and her exploration of the world beyond the neighborhood that she so often finds stifling. Love, jealousy, family, freedom, commitment, and above all friendship: these are signs under which both women live out this phase in their stories. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, and the pressure to excel is at times too much for Elena. Yet the two young women share a complex and evolving bond that is central to their emotional lives and is a source of strength in the face of life’s challenges. In these Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante, the acclaimed author of The Days of Abandonment, gives readers a poignant and universal story about friendship and belonging.
Whereas the first novel reads like an innocent bildungsroman, this, the second, has a much more serious tone as we watch the characters we’re grown to know and love become adults in their neighborhood. We see Elena finish high school and university and write a novel of her own, though much of the focus is on Lila, her struggling marriage to Stefano, and the opening and operation of the two stores: Stefano’s new family grocery, and the Cerullo/Solara/Carracci shoe store.
If I had to choose between Elena and Lila, I actually prefer Elena’s story-line more, so the heavy focus on Lila was difficult for me to get into at first. I definitely feel more of a connection to Elena; we have similar upbringings and personalities as students and bookworms. It’s a connection I don’t share with Lila, with her fiery, aggressive personality and her tendency to stir up drama. But of course I continued reading, because I had to know what would happen next in their tumultuous Neapolitan neighborhood! And like My Brilliant Friend, once I was in, I was in!
“Everything in the world was in precarious balance, pure risk, and those who didn’t agree to take the risk wasted away in a corner, without getting to know life.”
-Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name
With this second addition to Elena Ferrante’s quartet, I am fully invested in these characters and even more eager to reach the conclusion of their tale. If you haven’t picked the series up already, I highly recommend that you do!
Find this book on Goodreads.