“You’re my brilliant friend, you have to be the best of all,”
This book is the first book in the ‘Neapolitan Novels’ series. It tells the story of two friends: Elena and Lila as they navigate childhood and adolescence in 1950s Naples. They are poor but their friendship is strong.
I was wholly prepared to dislike this book. It is quite long but the pacing is slower than the sort of books I am used to. However, Ferrante’s language is jewel-rich and brings to life the daily struggle for survival in a poor neighborhood in 1950s Italy. In this world written by Ferrante, poverty is ever present. People live in masculine-centric domains and the women become weary quickly. Courtships and weddings are planned with the tenacity of army maneuvers.
I highly enjoyed reading this book. While at times it dragged, it was predominantly a very enthralling read and the characters all seemed complex in their own way. Of course, at times I did get slightly confused by the profusion of secondary characters but these moments of confusion did not last long. I really want to read the other books in this saga because I want to know what happens to the characters.
I can identify with the relationship between the two central women: Elena and Lina. Elena is always feeling inferior to Lina who is – in her mind – prettier and more accomplished. This friendship is clearly quite toxic but it will be interesting to see how the plot develops in later books.
A fantastic read. This book has encouraged me to read more Italian literature and if you are looking to explore the works of a new author I would highly recommend this book to you.
MY RATING: **** / *****