New Elena Ferrante book sparks fan fever in France


Paris (AFP)

Queues formed outside French bookshops Tuesday as legions of Elena Ferrante fans rushed to get a copy of her acclaimed new book, "The Lying Life of Adults".

English language readers will have to wait till September to dive into her first novel since her massively successful quartet of "Neapolitan Novels" ended with "The Story of the Lost Child" in 2014.

Her new saga is also set in the southern Italian city. But this time the heroine Giovanna hails from the upper echelons of Naples' society rather than from its working-class fringes, with the novel opening in the wealthy hilltop district of Vomero in the early 1990s.

Both her parents are seemingly enlightened intellectuals, and she is brought up to feel "proud to have been born female".

But that does not mean Giovanna is not put through the wringer, with the opening paragraph teased by Ferrante's publishers revealing how marked she was by overhearing her father tell her mother that she was very ugly.

While some Italian critics look down their nose at Ferrante-mania, it has been generally warmly received.

Italian fans queued up at midnight in November to buy the first copies of the book and then read it together in all-night vigils.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic -- which also delayed the book's publication in English from June to September -- it has become a runaway bestseller.

French critics were also generally wowed by the emotional rollercoaster of its teenage rebellion and the treasonous twists and turns of the plot.

Olivia de Lamberterie told French radio that "Ferrante does not set out to seduce the reader. She has a way of laying out her characters in all their complexity... Friendships are often awful and treasonous."

The ending has also left many asking if this could be the beginning of a new Ferrante series, but her Italian publisher claims that even they do not know.

Netflix announced last month that they will also bring "The Lying Life of Adults" to the screen.

Ferrante became a household name with the first of her Naples books, "My Brilliant Friend".

That is also the title of a hit HBO television series drawn from the books.

The quartet of novels, which follows the enduring friendship of two sensitive young girls, has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.