Italian literature · Uncategorized

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

“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: **** / *****

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