Fictional mobility

This post is slightly off topic but it is about social mobility. I just devoured Elena Ferrante’s new novel, The Lying Life of Adults, having been a total devotee of her bestselling Neapolitan quartet. Like all the best fiction, the novels are all crunchily specific about their context and yet also universal. The new one is also terrific.

One common reaction to her work is that it’s about the lives of girls and women, which of course it is. The new one is the best I’ve read about the relationships between adolescent girls and women, certainly since Margaret Atwood’s Cats Eye not to mention their interior lives. Yet to me – and perhaps the reason I find them so absorbing – is that they are just about the best fiction I’ve ever read about social class. Ferrante captures the textures of working class life, the imperative some young people feel to escape their roots (usually by education), how big a challenge that is (soft skills galore needed as well as intellect) and the price they pay for that deracination in feeling alienated from both old and new cultures.

Anyway, if you liked Ferrante’s previous work, you’ll like The Lying Life of Adults too.

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