Holy cannoli , that was incredible. Shit got real with this fourth and final installment of the Neapolitan Novels series. The violence, thugs, and corrupted power structures in Naples were featured through all four books, but view and perspective evolves. Initially it is seen from an child's perspective, with a very basic understanding and acceptance. Then from the youthful idealists' perspective, where there was still belief that one could rise above and make a difference. In the third book, you get the perspective of denial and avoidance as Lena moves away and Lila strikes out on her own. Finally, this book gives the perspective of a fully formed adult, facing up to it all with an element of resignation. You can take the Neapolitan out of Naples, but you can't take Naples out of the Neapolitan.
In my review of the first book, My Brilliant Friend, I ironically mention that it was a woman centered story without being feminist themed. Strike that, this series is a modern historical feminist masterpiece cleverly disguised as an easy to read soap opera. If you are intrigued, be forewarned, you should commit to reading all four books.
The series has two protagonists, Elena Grecco (aka Lenuccia or Lenù) and Raffaella Cerullo (aka Lina or Lila). Both are intelligent, brilliant and unexpected. Lenù becomes educated, a writer and associates with academics and intellectuals. For all her ostensible accomplishments, Lenù manages to make questionable life decisions. While she wasn't bratty or a diva in any way, Lenu was quite selfish and deeply insecure. Lila is forced to leave school after the 5 grade, and somehow manages to simultaneously embrace and reject all the trappings of the 'neighborhood' (aka Naples). Unlike Lenù, Lila doesn't have an insecure bone in her body, yet she will declare herself stupid. There is something fundamentally off with Lila, to the point where I sometimes thought she might have some sort of a personality disorder. In any case, their stories are artfully intertwined and this last book brings everything full circle.
Like all the contradictions that embody Lina and Lenù, this last edition brings it all to a definite conclusion while leaving many questions unanswered.