The final volume of Elena Ferrante’s quartet about the Neapolitan friends Lila and Lenu has just been published in English to great acclaim – both by reviewers and friends. Having slogged through the first and the fourth of the books it’s mystifying to me why they are so popular. It may be a more American phenomenon: an informal survey of Italian friends found only two who liked the books. If you can get through the 450-odd pages of the fourth volume there is no real reason to read the preceding three – all the threads are explained, re-explained and tied up. It’s like watching a soap opera after a few years of not watching and seeing which relationships have broken up and reformed in other configurations. And yes, the themes and emotions may be universal and therefore appealing to some people, and it’s also an overview of Italy’s (and Naples’) history from World War Two to the present, but Lila is simply arrogant and obnoxious and Lenu has to be one of the more irritating women on the planet. Besides which I felt like smacking her for what she puts up with from one of her men. It’s all a grand pasticcio and far too many parole, parole, parole… For those who loved the series, stay tuned – the RAI miniseries is coming soon!