Ben Smithgall

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Software and data at Spotify. Previously with U.S. Digital Service and Code for America.

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The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Novels, #4)

By Elena Ferrante (with Ann Goldstein)

Finished reading on November 26, 2018

A tremendous conclusion to an absolutely brilliant collection. The ending perfectly recalls the beginning of the series, and it left me totally speechless.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things that Ferrante is able to do in this latest chapter of the book is to show how the past swallows the present and future. Elena has spent her whole life removing herself physically and mentally from the neighborhood, but at the end of the day all of that effort to extract herself is entirely pointless. The neighborhood catches back up with her. One tiny accident, misstep, or misstatement can reawaken long-sleeping alliances and enemies in the complex web of local politics. Even when so many members of the neighborhood seem to grow in stature (e.g. the Solara brothers), ultimately everything seems to come back to exactly the way it was. Children becomes their parents and grandparents and go on to have children that resemble themselves. History repeats itself, as in the 18th Brumaire.

There are so many interesting critiques of modern society in this latest installment of Ferrante’s: motherhood, success, the petty bourgeoisie, and intellectual classes are all ruthlessly examined, as they were in previous chapters.

These are by far the best books I have read this year, and I highly recommend them to anyone.

★★★★★