Elena Ferrante

Opening a review with a book’s first line allows a critic to thieve the author’s momentum for themselves. I am in a thieving mood. For the first line of Elena Ferrante’s new novel, The Lying Life of Adults, carries an enviable wallop: ‘Two years before leaving home my father said to my mother that I was very ugly.’ It’s the kind of line – charged, discomforting, and vicious – that makes Ferrante so electrifying to read. Ferrante’s novels are whetstones; her narrators are knives. When we meet twelve-year-old Giovanna Trada in this novel, she is a meek and dutiful creature – clever but incurious; a dewy-eyed admirer of her affluent parents and their hermetic life. Four years later, when Ferrante is finished with her, Giovanna’s heart is a shiv. Here is womanhood, Ferrante shows us once again: a relentless abrasion, a sharpening.

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Tim Colebatch's review of my book Catch and Kill: The Politics of Power (November 2015) quotes a comment I made to

Over the last year, Italian enigma Elena Ferrante has become one of the most passionately advocated literary sensations of our time. Enigma, because 'Elena Ferrante' is a pseudonym and no one other than her publisher knows her identity, Ferrante had published several novels before the Neapolitan series, but it is this cycle of four novels, culminating in The Sto ...