Tag: Books: Literary


Review: How to Be Both

Posted 25 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 8 Comments

How to Be Both
By: Ali Smith
Format/Source: Trade paperback; my copy

How To Be Both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

I’ve been hearing much about this book time and again in the last year or so after it was shortlisted for a number of literary prizes. It was only after it won the Baileys Women’s Prize in Fiction for 2015 that I decided to pick it up and see what everyone’s raving about.

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Review: The Story of the Lost Child

Posted 10 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Story of the Lost Child (L’amica geniale #4)
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery, uncontainable Lila. Both are now adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship has remained the gravitational center of their lives.

Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up—a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. In this final book, she has returned to Naples. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from the city of her birth. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Proximity to the world she has always rejected only brings her role as its unacknowledged leader into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable!

Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, the story of a lifelong friendship is told with unmatched honesty and brilliance. The four volumes in this series constitute a long remarkable story that readers will return to again and again, and every return will bring with it new revelations.

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw me tweet a bit of my exciting in the hours leading up to the publication of this book. I had pretty much devoured the first three novels of this series back in August and preordered this book. So yeah, pretty much hovered over the internet midnight of September 1st, waiting for the confirmation that my purchase went through and the ebook was downloaded. I meant to read it a bit slowly, reading only the first two chapters…which became ten…which became a third of the book…Then finally I said what the heck and just read the whole book :3 Contains spoilers if you haven’t read any of the books in this series!

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Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Posted 9 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (L’amica geniale #3)
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts of her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women have attempted are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seem them living a life of mystery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to see each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.

And here we are, the third novel in her Neapolitan quartet. Having zipped through the first two books in the series within a day, it seemed I did not slow down with the third book, even though the fourth one was on pre-order and wouldn’t be released until September (now). Nonetheless I had to find out what happened next in Elena and Lila’s story. May contain spoilers ahead, especially if you haven’t read the previous installments!

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Review: The Story of a New Name

Posted 8 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Story of a New Name (L’amica geniale #2)
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

The second book, following 2012’s acclaimed My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the sometimes cruel price that this passage exacts.

You may have seen me mention this on Twitter last month but #FerranteFever is real, you guys. I read My Brilliant Friend (review) and this book in more or less one day and started reading the third book, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, right after. Very rarely has this ever happened to me where I’d just read books in the same series consecutively without break and pretty much forgetting everything else I need to do 😛 So yes, here we are, book two in the Neapolitan series. May contain spoilers ahead, especially if you haven’t read the previous installment!

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Review: My Brilliant Friend

Posted 2 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

My Brilliant Friend (L’amica geniale #1)
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

I’ve long seen her books in passing whenever I’m browsing what’s new in the translated fiction lists (I think Days of Abandonment was the first book of hers that I added to my GoodReads wishlist). I’ve heard so much buzz about her Neapolitan books in recent months that I finally decided to delve into Elena Ferrante’s works. I think I mentioned a few times in the last few months that I was going to wait until the bulk of my offline stuff was finished to settle back and enjoy the book, and the minute the long weekend hit last month, I just started reading this book. And couldn’t stop 😛 May contain spoilers ahead?

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