Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

The delightful soap operas of Elena Ferrante continue with this latest installment of the Neapolitan Novels, aka My Brilliant Friend, Volume 3. We pick up where the action stopped in Volume 2, Elena is nervously giving a reading of her first novel in Milan, verbally attacked by a man in the audience and then defended by a voice she recognizes, that of Nino. Elena marries Pietro the professor after a period of independence cresting the wave of her success as author. Lila works at Bruno’s sausage factory, living with Enzo, getting mixed up in radical politics to protest working conditions. She breaks down, exhausted, and Elena is summoned to rescue her. Out of Lila’s notes about the factory, Elena crafts an article in the paper that is much praised, gets Lila’s unpaid wages paid, has inspectors visit the factory. She then helps Lila move back to the old neighborhood with Enzo, and gets Enzo a job working with computers. This turns into Michele Solano renting a computer and giving Lila a high-paying job to manage it. Elena’s sister sets up house with Marcello Solano much to the chagrin of Elena, to the delight of Lila to throw it in her face. Elena has trouble writing a follow up to her novel, weighted down by two pregnancies and the pain of raising children. Nino visits, asks what she’s writing, and this sets her to focus on penning a feminist tract about how men create women. At long last, Nino and Elena begin their affair (of course), and Elena leaves her daughters and husband to join Nino on her first airplane trip.