It’s been over a year since the release of the tremendously satisfying finale to the Neapolitan Quartet, The Story of the Lost Child, and Elena Ferrante’s name is still on everyone’s lips (and some other names are on some other lips, but I’ll let that lie). As someone who anticipated the fourth book with a rabid fanaticism I can only compare to my own teenage fervor for The Deathly Hallows, I completely understand why Ferrante Fever hasn’t fizzled out.
Simply put, the quartet was unlike any writing I’d encountered: an unsparing look at the frenzied, sometimes ugly, interior lives of two women and how complicated but how deep and giving a love/hate friendship can be. It didn’t shy away, it didn’t beautify, and it propelled you forward with such ferocity that putting down the book felt like hitting the brakes and sitting, dizzied, for however many moments you needed to gather yourself.
Who wouldn’t want more of that? Here’s where to turn when everything else pales in comparison.
1. FRANTUMAGLIA: A WRITER’S JOURNEY BY ELENA FERRANTE
If you don’t know, now you know. New work by Elena Ferrante arrives November 1, and to top it off, it’s a nonfiction glimpse into her private writing workshop. We are truly blessed and that’s all there is to say. If you haven’t already, go read everything she’s ever written. Amen.
2. THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED BY CATHERINNE DUNNE
If you loved Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels, do yourself a favor and pick up this stunning book by best-selling Irish novelist @dunnecatherineauthor. It follows the interior lives of two women, strangers to one another, whose lives intersect in mysterious and ultimately satisfying ways. Available in 🇺🇸 now! #theyearsthatfollowed #catherinedunne #igreads #vscoreads #bookstagram #bookish #novel #ferrantefever #bestoffall
This thrilling novel from bestselling Irish novelist Catherine Dunne is like if you took the Neapolitan quartet, condensed it into one novel, and separated the lives of the two leading women (who nonetheless influence one another’s lives, without even realizing it). Truly a must-read for Ferrante fans.
3. NADA BY CARMEN LAFORET
In much more eloquent language than I could attempt in this space, The Sleeping World author Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes explains exactly why you should read Nada by Carmen Laforet (which predates Ferrante’s work) over on Off The Shelf.
4. A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING BY EIMEAR MCBRIDE
Frenzied and unforgiving, this gorgeous, dark, difficult book is worth sinking into (and you will need to let yourself sink in). Just like Ferrante’s work, I found myself not breathing for long passages at a time. Maybe not great for your physical health, but unbeatable mentally.
5. THE ART OF WAITING BY BELLE BOGGS
I’m obsessed with books that combine memoir with cultural studies, and this one is at the top of my fall list. In The Art of Waiting, Belle Boggs contemplates her own story of infertility alongside the story that’s unfolded through pop culture, nature, history, and more.
6. HOUSEKEEPING BY MARILYNNE ROBINSON
You might mistake this book for a quiet pastoral, but it’s so much bigger than that. The internal lives of the women passing through and lingering in the house near Fingerbone are by turns haunting and exhilarating and, ultimately, profound. It’s also just a teensy bit mystical feeling, as if the house is constantly surrounded by fog.
7. MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME BY REBECCA SOLNIT
Incredibly eye opening for both genders, and really demonstrates what it's like to be a woman and exist in a world that is constantly silencing you, constantly attempting to claim ownership over you, and demeans your existence. (*trigger warning* sexual assault/rape/murder) #menexplainthingstome #feminism #educateyourself #rebeccasolnit
Everyone felt some justified quiet rage when they finished reading Elena Ferrante’s quartet, right? Reading this essay collection was gratifying and restorative; the genius Rebecca Solnit recognizes and deconstructs scenarios that far too many women have experienced (in the titular essay, she recounts how a man once explained the plot of her own book to her). It’s funny and sad and smart and stokes a righteous anger in all the right ways.