Prayers for the Stolen
For Ladydi Garcia Martinez, it’s a dangerous thing to be a girl. While growing up in Guerrero, Mexico, a lawless town ruled by drug lords, Ladydi and her friends mar their appearances and hide in holes to avoid being taken by the cartels. Even once she gets out, following the promise of a better life, she cannot escape the iron grasp of the cartels. But in the face of adversity, our heroine unfailingly proves her strength and determination.
The Woman Destroyed
Simone De Beauvoir
In the three sections of this revelatory book, women grapple with their identity in the world and their place in society, the idea of what they’ve had to sacrifice versus what they’ve been able to keep. At times bitter, dark, and always honest, Beauvoir bled for her writing, and it shows.
Fates and Furies
This view of a relationship told from both two sides is an examination of gender roles, artistic ambition, and the many complexities of marriage. As I moved into the second half, which follows the wife, I couldn’t help thinking that Lila would have loved Mathilde: her ruthlessness, her quiet determination, and how she pulled the strings, always three steps ahead.
Morante’s novel, set in World War II Rome, follows the lives of a single mother and her two sons. The setting of Rome, the soldiers, the bombings and the politics are all etched irreversibly into the characters, melding history and humanity together masterfully.
Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie follows the lives of several characters in Nigeria in the late 1960s during the Biafran War. With a seamless blend of the personal and political, we see how her characters struggle to live, love, and stay human when their home is suddenly wracked with violence.
Dept. of Speculation
Offill’s prose is dreamier and her structure more fragmented, but this slim book examines many similar obsessions: the narrator’s artistic ambitions, somewhat thwarted by motherhood and wifehood and then, infidelity. Her stream-of-consciousness prose lends a diary-like intimacy to the narrative.
Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro is a much more restrained writer, but the introspection, honesty, and world-building in this book simply contains its boldness in a different way. The setting in this book is powerfully vivid and the fictional boarding school, Hailsham, and its special students will stay with you long after you’ve finished the novel.
Love Me Back
A fitting word for this book is fearless: Tierce is so unrestrained and unapologetic in her depiction of a self-destructive waitress, at war with how she feels unfit to love her young daughter, that I often caught myself holding my breath as I turned the page.
Pride and Prejudice
An oft-quoted blurb for Ferrante from John Freeman: “Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.” This novel of manners is an anchor of explorations of class, society, and marriage.
The Woman Upstairs
Nora Eldridge is a polite, responsible schoolteacher who secretly nurses wilder artistic dreams. When she meets Sirena, a beautiful, enticing European conceptual artist, their relationship unleashes Nora’s desire to find a similarly enthralling identity, and her fixation with Sirena is at times obsessive, nurturing, and deceptive.
My Struggle: Book One
Karl Ove Knausgaard
Many thought that Knausgaard and Ferrante represented two poles of the same type of writing; titanic, multi-volume novels that are firmly evocative of their settings, whether Naples or Norway; heavy on introspection, violence, and the effects of fear; and though their writing style is very different, if you’re interested in another long saga, perhaps begin this one.
In certain circles it was all anyone could talk about—Ferrante, Ferrante, Ferrante, like an incantation. When the last installment of the Neapolitan novels was released, I think many of us mourned their finale. Elena Ferrante’s four-volume saga centers on two extraordinarily bright friends who grow up in the violent, poverty-stricken Naples remaining after World War II. They delve completely into issues of class, ambition, equality, and, most masterfully, female friendship. They are extraordinary for a number of reasons: the powerful grasp on social issues, the clean yet explosive prose, and the display of femininity in all its messy, complex, passionate power. Soon after devouring the last volume, I ached for more Elena, more Lila, more Naples. Whether you’re searching for the bold prose, the meticulous understanding of female friendship, or the vivid description of a crime-ridden hometown and a society in flux, try one of these books to help soothe your Ferrante hangover.
Curated by Kyle Lucia Wu.
Featured Image by Charmer/iStock.com