Book Review - Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

As promised, this is my first Thursday blog post. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante is the third novel in the Neapolitan series (read the first book’s review here and the second book’s review here). Lina has returned home to try and make sense of what got her through life in the first place. Lina herself has changed (and not in a way I like); she seems to have lost her passion, and every time she finds a voice, someone from her past seems to knock it down. We see Lila broken by her circumstances and choices. Both women are trying to bridge their old world with their new world. This novel tells the story of home. Lila and Lina have had different experiences of home, and now, they realize their version of home cannot remain the same. In the case of Lila, the experience of being away gave her a new insight into her home. This experience has made her isolated because she thinks she’s better than everyone else but has the same issues as them but with no allies. It is clear that the culture they grew up in breeds unhappiness.

This story becomes about destiny. When they were girls, they made the pact that Lila was wicked and so she became that way. Since this story centres on Lina returning home, there is a clear fear of Lila. Lina does not want to be attached to her. I think there may be a fear of how well Lila knows her friend. I believe that Lina thinks Lila will see right through the fa├žade of the self-important author she thinks she is. I do feel for Lina in this novel though. I understand the feeling of wanting everything to stay the same while you’re away. Lina is jolted back into reality constantly. There is still the element of reflection since the story is written as Lina looking back at her life, but it begs the question: is it too late? The truth of the matter is that all Lina really wanted is a life alongside Lila, but their circumstances made that impossible.

The title of the book sets up an instant juxtaposition that I quite like. We are meant to understand which characters are ascribed to each part of the title (the one who leaves and the one who stays) and what the implication of the label are. This novel follows Lina’s life closely but pays particular attention to what is happening to Lila even if they are not together. It becomes obvious that Lina never really came into her own whereas Lila always knew what she wanted in life. The writing also touches on political themes, the power of female friendship, post-partum depression, issues in marriage, and home. The biggest technical issue I have is that long speeches are not punctuated. It is difficult to tell when one the speech stops and the narration begins again. I give this book a 2/5. I’m getting really bored with this series. The books are getting longer, and I truly think most of the stories are unnecessary.


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