Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet (Europa Editions paperbacks, £12.99) and Natalia Ginzburg’s Voices In The Evening (Daunt Books paperback, £9.99)

Numerous friends have recommended I read the Neapolitan Quartet by the Italian novelist known as Elena Ferrante (a pen name; the writer remains anonymous). Finally, on a trip to Italy I packed the first novel, My Brilliant Friend, and I immediately wished I had smuggled all four books into my suitcase.

The series is anchored by its exploration of the complex friendship between Elena (“Lenù”) Greco and Raffaella (“Lila”) Cerullo from their childhood, raised in a poor neighbourhood in post-war Naples, to adulthood. Ferrante is astute, sensitive and detailed in her portrait of friendship, while offering a panoramic view of the social, literary and political culture of Italy in the latter half of the 20th-century. I devoured each part of the series in turn, and was genuinely bereft as I finished the fourth.

My interest in Ferrante has led me to another brilliant Italian novelist, Natalia Ginzburg. First published in 1961, Ginzburg’s Voices in the Evening has recently been reissued by Daunt Books, with an introduction from Colm Tóibín. Voices in the Evening is narrated by Elsa, who weaves together violent and humorous stories from her village against the backdrop of the unresolved horrors and traumas of the second world war, with her own clandestine love story submerged beneath the surface.

As Tóibín writes in the introduction, dwelling on the brutal murder of Ginzburg’s own anti-fascist husband Leone, “Ginzburg did not overdramatise the war in her writing, but sought to integrate it into daily life; it seemed part of normality until it came close and then it tore the lives of her characters asunder.”

Francesca Bratton,

Little Apple Bookshop