The Lying Life of Adults – Elena Ferrante

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Teenager Giovanni learns about the lies adults are capable of

❝ Giovanni is a 13 year old living in Naples. One day she overhears her father compare her to her Aunt Vittoria, a woman the whole family despises. Hurt but also curious, Giovanni goes in search of her Aunt.

Vittoria both intimidates and empowers her with honest conversations and intellectual challenges. Vittoria insists it is her brother that is the ugly one of the family, the one who tells lies. She implores Giovanni to look closer and uncover the truth for herself.

With her new found adult perspective Giovanni does inspect the adults in her life more closely, her mother, father, her friend’s parents and even Vittoria herself. What she discoveries in them all is a litany of secrets and deceptions. Giovanni rebels, her ascent into adulthood is fast tracked and she becomes a teller of lies too.

Appearance has long been studied in fiction but this translated work offers a fresh perspective on what constitutes beauty. A bracelet which changes hands several times showcases how the perception of beauty and ugliness is a powerful tool that can both embolden and hurt people. The bracelet guides the narrative, and each change of owner signifies an impending change in one’s perception of themselves but also in their loyalties. Giovanni herself constantly realigns her loyalties and as such further impedes her transition from adolescent to adult.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous author whose identity is known only by her publisher.

If you looked even just for a moment at those who had the privilege of a beautiful, refined face, you discovered that it hid infernos no different from those expressed by coarse, ugly faces. The splendor of a face, enhanced even by kindness, harbored and promised suffering still more than a dull face.

The Lying Life of Adults has a perfect juxtaposition of vulgarity and refinement. All the characters and their actions can be described as such as different times in the novel. And what an apt way to portray the move between adolescent innocence and the harsh reality of adulthood. The characterisation in this book was fabulous, I loved and despised most characters at some time or other and always wanted to know who was lying the most. I loved it and I think most bookies would enjoy it, too. – Rachel

❝ The voice of Giovanni felt authentic throughout this great coming-of-age story. As with many teens, Giovanni would oscillate between being overly sensitive, emotional and difficult, to thoughtful and considerate. The lying theme was expertly woven throughout and was present right from the start which I didn’t immediately recognise until it was pointed out by our chair. I enjoyed pondering the characters’ stories and wondering who was actually more truthful. Altogether an awesome novel from an anonymous author. I would love to know who she is! – Jo

❝ I really enjoyed this slice of life about Italian teen Giovanna. A girl thrown from the idyllic bubble she lived in with adorning parents whom she admired, into a world of lies, secrets and personal discovery. There are two events which sparked major changes in her outlook of life, the first being a comment from her father, in which he said she was becoming like her estranged Aunt and the other the discovery of a life-changing family secret. However, Giovanna’s self-discovery leads her to become a strong willed, rebellious more opened-minded teenager. Great novel with great characters. – Jodie

❝ I know it’s been a long time since I’ve read something written by Judy Blume, but I swear The Lying Life of Adults tops even those gold standard coming of age novels. The mysterious Elena Ferrante channeled the contradictory and slightly unhinged aspects of growing up so accurately it almost felt like my own teenage years were being exposed. A fantastic read, one of my faves this year.  – Suzy

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Published 2019
Europa Editions
Translated by Ann Goldstein
336 pages

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