In the third installment of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena’s life takes on a new direction and she finds a voice for herself beyond her unintentional novel.
Elena marries Pietro and moves to Florence for his professorship, but it’s not the happily ever after that many imagine with increasing political turmoil erupting throughout Italy. As Elena tries to use her education and writing to further social justice causes dredged up with the political unrest, she is drawn back into Lila’s world since Lila’s factory job is a prime example of the corruption being fought against. With marital and familial life intervening on Elena’s path, she finds that she doesn’t share Lila’s outlook on pregnancy, but she’s not perfectly at ease either. When Nino enters her life again, Elena makes a decision that will forever alter her life.
Again, the narrative is beautifully written and the pages seem to melt away as the story develops. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is by far my favorite in the series (thus far); however, while I wasn’t exactly a fan of Nino from the start, the things we’ve learned about him in this novel make me really question him as a person and what, aside from a blindness from childhood fondness, Elena sees in him. This installment is what I think of as “things get political.” There was plenty of action and things for Elena and Lila to think about and respond to.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.