Socialist Worker

Elena Ferrante's latest examines suffocating world of teenagers

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2723

G

Giovanna is on a voyage of discovery


If you want a break from the big stresses of coronavirus and economic crisis, read Elena Ferrante’s new novel.

There you can fall into a world of the very real, but smaller-scale, stresses of a teenage girl.

In The Lying Life of Adults, 15 year old Giovanna describes her struggles with family and school, anxiety over body image and her developing sexuality.

It’s a bit like dipping into someone’s diary, only brilliantly written.

In true Ferrante style, the sentences manage to be blunt and poetic at the same time.

The story begins with Giovanna mortified at overhearing her father comparing her to an ugly aunt.

The meaning of his words turns out to be more complex, enlightening her to a years-long family feud based largely on class.

You are quickly pulled into a world as it appears to a teenager.

Adult behaviours appear nonsensical, adult obsessions seem irrelevant.

And there is plenty of evidence that Giovanna’s perceptions aren’t far off the mark.

Her father is an academic, constantly debating politics with his friend Mariano.

Affair

When Giovanna stumbles on evidence of an affair between her mother and Mariano, the story speeds up.

It’s as if the world she thought she knew has suddenly disappeared, but the emotional fallout is at times hilarious.

Giovanna desperately hopes that a row that has erupted is not linked to the affair.

“God—I entreated—let the fight between my father and Mariano be about Marxism and the end of history,” she says.

The story at times feels suffocating, as you experience the limited world of a teenager.

It’s also about Giovanna’s attempts to push against this—to experience new things, win more freedom and make her world a bit bigger.

No one knows much about the author—Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym—but she has won fans across the world. The Lying Life of Adults shows why.

The Lying Life of Adults

By Elena Ferrante

Published by Europa

Out now


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