Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (2013) 5 Stars ***** (Book 3 of The Neapolitan Novels) 

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Lenu, the narrator, and her closest friend, Lila, are now in their twenties and thirties. Their relationship is still characterized by push and pull—to all appearances polar opposites who really are not so different after all. Both are strong, determined, ambitious, sexual in different ways, feminists, victims of unwanted sexual advances, social activists, politically aware, searching risk takers, reluctant mothers who act independently with decisions that further their personal goals at the expense of family obligations. They both upset the peace as they turn their backs on traditional expectations and seek out situations to place themselves at the top of their games. Which one do you think is more generous to family and friends with time and money? You might be surprised, but then again, maybe not!

This book and the whole series are set against the backdrop of the eternal political battles in Italy among Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Communists. Political views interfere with relationships. When violence erupts, it is their family, friends, and neighbors who are at the center. Mistrust abounds but the characters do their best to pretend they don’t see or don’t suspect, not wanting to believe the worst or contribute to information leading to capture by the police.

Lenu now lives in Florence with her good, but boring and aloof husband and two daughters, at first enjoying fame from her critically acclaimed book and public lectures on feminism and the plight of women. Lenu then hits a low point in her creativity as her popularity declines and she temporarily devotes herself to household responsibilities. Needing a catalyst to jump-start her life, Lenu rekindles a relationship with an old flame which destroys the tranquility of her family life.

Lila has remained in Naples now working at the sausage factory, and having left her husband, is living in near poverty with her son and an old friend, Enzo, who accepts the lack of reciprocal love and happily offers a modicum of financial support and protection. Lila becomes an advocate for the workers at the sausage factory and her outspoken, demanding ways result in a restructuring of her place of employment. The relationship with Enzo gradually grows as they study together to learn new skills to improve their plight. While Enzo initially is thought to be the superior one, Lila quickly overtakes him as new opportunities and demand for her services pull Lila out of her financial slump.

While people admire the accomplishments of those who succeed, there is always the feeling of abandonment. Sure, you’re rich and famous but you turn your back on the rest of us who need you in our lives. What would happen if we all walk away? We helped raise you up, and where are you now?


Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, books two and three are scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this HBO series. I look forward to reading and reviewing the last book in the series.

The review for The Story of the Lost Child will be published on January  16, 2019.

Ciao bella!


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I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

June 2020
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