Read of the Week

The Lying Life of Adults

Elena Ferrante

Jonathan Ball

Review: Lauren O’Connor

The Lying Life of Adults chronicles troubled teen, Giovanna’s gradual loss of innocence as she moves from childhood through adolescence.

The book is a painfully raw read of betrayal, confusion and self-discovery.

Translated from Italian, the book is set in Naples and traverses the posher upper-class neighbourhoods and ugly underbelly, as Giovanna navigates between the two intertwined worlds trying to find herself.

The story starts sweetly enough, with the wealthy Giovanna in a loving relationship with her parents and an especially close relationship with her father. She does well in school, has good, appropriate friends and is the quintessential good girl.

As she becomes more self-aware she notices that her parents have different personas for different situations and while musing on this, she realises that there is more to them than just the safely cocooned world they have created for her.

The cocoon starts unravelling frighteningly as she starts exploring these hidden parental depths, initially covertly but eventually, with her parents’ consent.

What she finds leads her family on a path to destruction and rather than finding herself, Giovanna finds herself being destroyed as well.

Initially, when I got to the end of the book, I wondered why it had such an odd abrupt ending. Was there a planned sequel? “O, wilt, thy leave me so unsatisfied?”

But on reflecting, I realised that the book ended when the last nail was put in the coffin of Giovanna’s childhood.

That part of the story of her life was complete.

And it was unsatisfying because when was adolescence ever a satisfying experience?

When did it ever have a happy ending?

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