Boundaries Dissolve: Joanna Biggs on Reading Ferrante With Other Women

Boundaries Dissolve: Joanna Biggs on Reading Ferrante With Other Women

It felt as if everyone was reading Ferrante in the summer of 2015. Truly everyone. And we all wanted to talk it. I felt guilty that I would be the one reviewing it, getting to have my say, when we were all reading it, all having our own experiences. One of the appealing things about Ferrante was that the reading took place with others. It opened up conversations about the shapes a woman's life should and could take. I'd left my marriage with an inkling that there were more possibilities than the ones I'd allowed myself, and I was desperate for conversations about those shapes, and searching for the people to have them with. The people who liked Ferrante were good people for these discussions. When I separated from my husband, I lived in the flat we'd bought together while he lived elsewhere, first with a friend and then in a place that we paid for out of our joint account. I tried to fill it with a life of my own, but I could only manage it in fits and starts. Ferrante inspired one of my first attempts. I invited friends over to talk about her: a former correspondent in Rome for a national newspaper, a political historian, a philosopher, an editor on the magazine I worked at, a publicist for a publisher. I made salad and ordered pizza, which I laid out in boxes on the floor; I mixed cocktails with the bottles of Campari and Martini Rosso I kept around then for late-night Americanos. From old emails, I can see it was August, and I remember the sash windows were open and we smoked inside. We smoked inside my former marital home and we talked about Ferrante. Not everyone knew each other, and so we did talk about the books: the addictions we had to them, the Lilas and Lenùs we knew and which one we feared we were, things we were starting to read about Milanese feminism and the Years of Lead in Italy. The next morning, I took a photo of the coffee […]

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