The Story of a New Name

Book 2 of the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante sucks you in just as quickly as the first; I kept thinking of this as My Brilliant Friend, volume 2, which it of course is, never even glancing at the title until sitting down to write this. We pick up where MBF left off, at the marriage of Lila & Stephano, Lila’s rude awakening to displeasure with her now husband, miscarrying a baby, being sent off to the coast to learn to swim and get strong (this, the advice of the doctor in order to have more babies). Elena assiduously continues her studies, marching through the ranks as a top pupil but still feeling like she’s faking it to some degree, the rising daughter from a poor family with no sense of style or money or clothes. She’s still into Nino Sarratore, chasing him to his summer vacation spot where he’s studying during the day with Bruno and begins to meet up with Elena, Lina, and Lina’s sister-in-law at the beach. Lina and Nino begin a torrid affair, the sister-in-law slinks back to Naples afraid of falling in love with Bruno, and Elena loses her virginity to Nino’s father on the beach one night.
Lina finds Stephano unbearable, sneaks away with Nino for 3 weeks before being brought home, pregnant with Nino? Stephano?’s son whom she names Rino after her brother. Elena continues to study, passing high school and being prompted to apply for a scholarship to the university at Pisa. She goes away, becomes polished, writes a novel in a few weeks which later she discovers was somewhat influenced by the “book” Lina wrote in childhood. Lina has escaped with Enzo’s help (a friend), and ends up working at Bruno’s sausage factory. Elena comes to meet her with a copy of her “book” from childhood, wanting to show her the influence it had on her. Lina tosses it in the fire, unimpressed with herself. Definitely a lot of good, real bits about female friendship in here. Looking forward to the 3rd installment, which I’m sure I’ll dub MBF3.