This novel by Ferrante, the story of the new surname, is getting good: Lenu is the narrator, best friends with Lina. Lina has married Stefano, the son of the neighborhood gangster-like future. On the wedding night Stefano hits Lina and then rapes her. Apparently their marriage is based on a business deal between their two families, who are in the business of manufacturing and selling scarpe ((shoes).
When Lina returns to the neighborhood, she is in a convertible dressed like Jackie Kennedy, with a scarf and sunglasses to disguise the bruises. Lenu, who hasn't been going to school, decide to go back and apply herself. Lina offers her a spare room in her house with Stefano to study in the afternoons. The house is luxurious, and there is abundant food. The two women are still teenagers, but Lina, although very intelligent, has dropped out of school. Lenu takes a luxurious bath at Lina's house.
The scholarly system is based on rote memorization of textbooks. Being "smart" (bravo) means answering questions orally in class. Studying is important for Lenu, but also wholly disconnected from everyday life.
Lenu's boyfriend is Antonio, but she is really in love with another boy, Lino. Antonio wants to get out of military service, because he is afraid that if he goes away. Lenu will not wait for him. Lina and Lenu go to a bar run by friends of theirs, to buy pastries one Sunday. Lina is dressed to kill, in a way that is unusual for this neighborhood. Lina asks one of the owners of the bar, who used to be her boyfriend possibly (Marcello) if there is a way for Antonio to get out of military service, possibly by paying bribe to someone. Michele, Marcello's brother, asks Lina if they can used a blown-up photo of Lina in her wedding dress in another store that they own. Lina says they must ask Stefano about this.
Lenu tells Antonio that they have inquired about getting him out of military service. He is humiliated, since he has had bad relationships with the Solara brothers, Marcello and Michele, who own the bar. He dumps Lenu. Stefano is also angry that his wife has gone to the bar dressed like that, and put him in a compromising situation concerning the wedding photo.
What I like here is the complexity of the web of relationships. Since I haven't read all the first book in the tetralogy, it is a bit difficult to keep everything straight, but I think I know who everyone is. I also like the creation of a fictional world, the rione. I'm thinking this word means something like neighborhood.