The many fans of Elena Ferrante will be intrigued by March’s Book of the Month. At one point, Domenico Starnone, its author, was suspected by overzealous critics to actually be Elena Ferrante. When her anonymity was broken by a (now very unpopular) journalist, it turned out Starnone wasn’t Ferrante after all – but he was married to her. A bestselling author in his own right, Starnone is the author of eight novels and the recipient of Italy’s most prestigious literary prize, the Strega.
The reason Ferrante fans might be quick to pick up Starnone’s latest book, Ties, is because the plot reads like a novel Ferrante herself might have penned. The story centres on a couple who marry young, keen to gain independence from their families. As middle-age and responsibility set in, the two realise that their marriage has started to lose meaning. Eventually, he leaves her behind in Naples with their children and moves to Rome, where he meets a younger woman. The sense of betrayal and abandonment is acute, but so are the ties that bind the couple together. In this short, powerful novel, Starnone asks: is it possible to retrace one’s steps and regain what was lost?
Starnone writes with a raw honesty and perceptiveness that has won him comparisons to both John Updike and Ian McEwan. And of course, the subject matter of the book can’t be mentioned without bringing Ferrante into the mix. Ferrante returns to themes of betrayal and abandonment throughout all her works. In Ties, it is interesting to see Starnone’s take. Ultimately, as with Ferrante’s novels, Ties is a dynamic exploration of both the vulnerability and strength that lies within every human relationship.
If the author relevance and topic isn’t enough to turn you on to Ties, another huge pull is the fact it has been translated by award-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri has a huge readership and is highly regarded in the UK. Her collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000, and her 2013 novel The Lowlands was nominated for the Booker. Lahiri currently lives in Rome. She released her first book in Italian, In Other Words, with Bloomsbury. Ties is her first translation.
All this considered we can expect Ties to have huge appeal to UK readers when it is published by Europa Editions on March 9th.
- Bill Godber
Ties by Domenico Starnone will be published on 9 March by Europa (£9.99, p/b, 144pp, 9781609453855)