The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Translated by Ann Goldstein, narrated by Hillary Huber.

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Ferrante’s books since being translated into English and it is extremely well deserved. I was actually a little intimidated writing a review for this audiobook because it is a rare example of (my idea of) perfection in literature.

The Story of a New Name is the second book in the Neapolitan Novels and I recommend you read the first book, My Brilliant Friend, first. This review contains spoilers for the first book.

The Story of a New Name has the girls aged 16-18 and is set immediately after Lila’s wedding.

The relationship between Elena and Lila contains a fervour reminiscent of that between Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. They share a ferocious competitiveness which has carried over since childhood and which helps and harms them as they attempt to out achieve each other. Both begin to lose the naïveté they shared in the first book, but while Elena retains some of her early innocence, Lila’s cynicism becomes complete.

Lila is married at 16 to a man she trusts but doesn’t love. The marriage is an attempt to shield herself from the poverty, corruption and violence of the neighbourhood in which they live. Elena continues her schooling, graduates high school and attends university. With each step Elena moves further away from the neighbourhood in which she grew up and which she and Lila both desire to escape.

The characters Ferrante creates are intensely real. They lie and are lied to, they manipulate and are manipulated, they betray and are betrayed. There is little opportunity for the better life for which they strive.

Hillary Huber was an excellent choice to read this series. I don’t think Blackstone Audio could have found a better voice for Elena. She cleverly conveys Elena’s intelligence, but also her youth & lack of insight into the minds of those around her. Huber’s familiarity with the characters and narrative timing gives this production a beauty that matches Ferrante’s writing.

The Story of a New Name • by Elena Ferrante • translated by Ann Goldstein • read by Hillary Huber • The Neapolitan Novels, Book 2 • 19.1 hours • published by Blackstone Audio • 2015 • 9781483080574

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