A few months ago, I had a post where I talked about two books I had barely began to read at the time, The Blue Book and A Tale for the Time Being. Thanks to ‘samples’ in ebook stores, I’ve more than ever been judging a book by its first few chapters, deciding if I want to purchase it or, more importantly, continue reading it.
Last night, unable to sleep because of my continuing cough, I downloaded the sample of Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment and began to read. I’ve never read any Ferrante, and by the end of that first, fairly short chapter I decided that I was going to binge read as many of her works as I could.
The writing is the sort that seems unaffected, with no obvious literary frills, as if the narrator is just using the most expedient means to telling her story. This is an illusion that takes great skill. She maintains the aura of reality even while taking writerly detours, like describing the view from the balcony of their new home, something unlikely to come up in an everyday recitation of events.
And I truly do buy into the reality. Halfway through chapter one, I realized my brain is thinking that this narrator is Elena, that she’s only reminding me of her husband Mario’s name because I already know him. I often forget fictional characters aren’t real, but usually this happens with television shows where I have spent years in their lives. Here I’m a few paragraphs in and my delusions are already settling in.
Today I stopped at the library and picked up Days of Abandonment, My Brilliant Friend, and then bought The Story of a New Name. As I was checking out at the library, the clerk smiled as if she had a secret, then said quietly, “You’ve found some good books.” I hope that I have.