The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante

Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, narrated by Hillary Huber.

“I’m a scribble on a scribble, completely unsuitable for one of your books…one doesn’t tell the story of an erasure.”

Lila has disappeared and has destroyed as much evidence of her existence as she can – down to cutting herself out of photos. But Elena Greco is recreating Lila in words. She hopes that writing about Lila will bring her out of hiding.

The fourth and final novel in the Neapolitan Novels picks up from where Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave ended. Spoilers for Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave follow: After promising her daughters that she will never leave them, Elena packs a bag, waits until the children are at school and leaves to be with Nino Savatore, the man she has admired since school.

The Story of the Lost Child continues the story of Elena’s relationship with Nino, how it affects her relationship with Lila who also previously left her husband for Nino, and how it affects Elena’s relationship with her daughters, Dede and Elsa. Lila warns Elena that Nino is “unreliable”, but Elena is “blinded by love.”

For all the years Elena spent trying to get out of the neighbourhood she is right back where she began. I have to admit at this point in the book I judged Elena pretty harshly for bringing her daughters back to the frightening environment she fought so hard to leave, all for the love of a man who has repeatedly proven himself untrustworthy.

The book follows the women through their 30s, when Elena and Lila both become pregnant and reconcile over their shared experience of pregnancy. Through unexpected and devastating events, it presses on through later decades until the point of Lila’s disappearance: the reason for Elena’s writing.

If you haven’t read the first three books in the series go now and pick up My Brilliant Friend and start from the beginning. While the other novels stand alone, you’ll benefit from having followed the story from the beginning.

The entire audio series, published by Blackstone Audio, has been narrated by Hillary Huber. Huber captures Elena so concisely that we are aware that Elena may not always be the most reliable source for all the events described in the book. There is a lot that Elena doesn’t know or understand, and Huber conveys that without undermining Elena as our source.

The series as a whole is extraordinary. Elena Ferrante has gifted us an incredible mosaic of an intense friendship that spans decades, set against a fascinating backdrop and with an enormous & unusual cast of characters.

The Neapolitan Novels series is the most engaging, beautiful story I have come across in a very long time. It is a masterpiece. And this Blackstone Audio production is the perfect way to experience the story.

The Story of the Lost Child (unabridged audiobook) • by Elena Ferrante • translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein • read by Hillary Huber • The Neapolitan Novels, Book 4 • 18.4 hours • published by Blackstone Audio • 2015 • ISBN 9781504630115

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