‘The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante


The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante (2020) – 320 pages Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

I want to start here with an exercise for you. Try to remember your life situation when you were 13 years old, your family, your other relatives, your friends, your feelings, your school. If you are like me, you will remember a lot more details and recall much more vividly everything that was going on for you then than you would have guessed. Thirteen is the approximate age when we start breaking away from our family circumstances and begin to become independent persons. That’s also when we begin to realize that our parents are just two human beings with their own set of problems just like everyone else.

So what has this got to do with The Lying Life of Adults’? Here our main protagonist Giovanna is 13. Her father’s offhand remark which she overhears sets off a startling chain of events.

She’s getting the face of Vittoria.”

Giovanna is of course curious about this aunt Vittoria, and she finds out that her father and his sister Vittoria had a big fight, and that’s why their family never visits her. She starts asserting her independence by visiting her father’s enemy sister. Soon after that the marriage of Giovanna’s own parents falls apart.

I was completely engaged in the story of ‘The Lying Life of Adults’. Much of the novel is about the intrigues of relating to the opposite sex as an adolescent and teenager. This, of course, has been the subject of hundreds of novels, but Ferrante’s approach seems fresh and interesting for the most part.

Throughout we have mentions of a bracelet that Giovanna’s grandmother had worn, and the bracelet gets handed from person to person during the story. I suppose Grandma’s bracelet would be considered the objective correlative to use a fancy literary term, but the bracelet did seem a little too obvious and artificial as a literary device.

However, overall, ‘The Lying Life of Adults’ held my interest throughout. It’s a story of growing up in Naples, Italy, but probably is applicable around the world.

Lies, lies, adults forbid them and yet they tell so many.”

Perhaps as a further exercise, think about the lies which your parents told you when you were a child. I really couldn’t think of any outright lies my parents told me then.


Grade:    A-


3 responses to this post.

  1. I must have been a late starter… I don’t really remember anything of any significance from when I was 13.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      Oh, I bet you do remember, what your aunts and uncles were like, what kind of car your parents drove, any pets you might have had, the others kids in your school, etc. Once I started thinking about it, I was surprised by all the details I still remembered.



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