After turning the last page of the final volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, it’s easy to issue a long sigh. Few novelists have ever wrought as fine and intense a portrait of the circles and connections that radiate and intersect with the strains (and occasional joys) of a lifelong relationship between two people. The saga of the principals, Lila and Elena, which began in girlish childhood in the squalor of tenement blocks peopled by hoodlums and shopkeepers scratching out an existence, has drawn to a close amid the disappointments, dashed hopes, volcanic outbursts and ruptured connections of late middle age. Yet between these mordant bookends there exists a work for the ages—filled with finely carved characters, intricately etched plots and the entire spectrum of human emotion—all translated into exquisite English.
‘Reef’ is a novel that is so beautiful in its evocation of Sri Lanka, a lost paradise of sorts, that it fills me with nostalgia for something I never even had.