Try as I might, and believe me I have, I just cannot get into this series of novels as much as it seems I should. The accolades, the five star reviews, the almost overwhelming frenzy that readers have towards Elena and Lila – all tell me that I must be missing something. I agree, unreservedly, that the writing is sublime, and of the three books that I have read so far, this latest one is a knock out. The author captures the love-hate nature of female friendship so achingly beautiful; the different routes women in post war Italy take to escape their destinies at birth of being wives, mothers, punching bags, without voices or means; the polarising politics of communism and fascism – all of it excellent. But I think it is because I don’t actually like any of the characters that I have such trouble in liking these novels. I expect I am supposed to like Elena and Lila – after all they both seem to be doing their best to improve their lives, they are intelligent, arouse sympathy, strong and feisty. A lot happens to each of the women in this third book, covering the years of their late twenties/early thirties. Elena is now a successful author, married to Pietro and mother to two girls. She is continually conflicted in her role as mother/wife versus her ongoing desire to be a successful writer. Lila, on the other hand, continues to live with Enzo and works in the salami factory until her protests at the factory’s appalling working conditions leads to a major change in direction for her, Enzo and her son. A lot happens in this novel, probably the most action packed of the three books and for me, it is the best of the three. But such heavy going, slow moving story telling makes me feel like I am wading through heavy muddy waters.

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