From the minute I picked this one up, it was like, “ah, yes, this is what I want to be reading.” I took some time between reading the first and second books, but from the first page, I felt myself sinking deliciously into the intense world Ferrante has created.
For me, the thing that makes these books so amazing is the level of detail Ferrante goes into to describe the emotions and actions of the characters. She spares no tiny gesture, no fleeting thought. A lot happens in the lives of these young characters, and a lesser novelist would still have a good book on their hands. But what makes these books really great is how Elena, the protagonist, returns to certain events, turning them over in her mind, wringing every bit of meaning out of them, then imbuing them with new meaning as her perspective grows and changes, or as she learns the motives of other characters. I am in absolute awe of this aspect of her writing.
Another thing that makes these books stand out, of course, is the anger and other “negative” emotions of the female characters. Many have commented on this, particularly the rage, but what I also love is how explicitly she talks about jealousy and even some emotions I’m not sure how to name. For instance, (view spoiler) This is what makes the novels great — the way Ferrante never turns away from these kinds of shameful feelings everyone has but no one admits to; not only does she refuse to look away, but she seeks them out, exposes them, exploits them.
Needless to say, I will keep reading!