Grateful as I am to Elena Ferrante for her work alone, I'm equally grateful for the appetite (either assumed or real) she's aroused in the English reading public for Italian literature, and the spate of translations that have followed in her wake.

A Silence Shared is a sparse, intimist (though she would reject that classification) novel whose quietude lives up to its title, following the goings-on of the protagonist, her (often absent) husband, and the two acquaintances she meets whose life she slowly ingrains herself into. Most of this book concerns what is not being said: Paolo's partisan background, the war and occupation dominating Turin, the deep and uneasy attachment between these characters that borders eroticism and codependence.

It is largely a book where dialogue is imagined, and the reader is left more with a collage of indelible images. A disgraced fascist major rolling out pasta to pass time and preserve resources; the three main characters huddling together on a wireframe bed to preserve warmth; clouds and clouds of sawdust; quiet forest paths, passed on foot and on bicycle.

What this book gets, beyond those images, is something reminiscient of The Secret History to me: the feeling, all too familiar, of belonging to a relationship that once felt secret, and the odd transmutation that occurs when you slowly evolve from observer to participant.


Lightning bolt
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