Title: My Brilliant Friend
Author: Elena Ferrante
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Italy, European Literature
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: October 19, 2011
Page Amount: 336 pages
Goodreads Summary: The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.
Why I Read: So rarely do I find myself in bookstores finding a particularly exciting paperback, that when I do – it merits notice. Elena Ferrante is a name I’ve heard on the Book Riot podcast, when she crops up in the news from time to time. I never was drawn to her books; domestic stories have never seemed to draw my particular taste. But when a bookseller told me that her stories were incredible and that I *had* to read it – spontaneity dictated that I absolutely had to read it.
Review: Usually reading about the mundanities of life bores me to tears. I have no wish to read about the domesticity of going to school, to browse the books that wax poetic on growing up and what life means. With My Brilliant Friend, however, it is the quality of writing that drew me in and wouldn’t let go. Ferrante’s prose is intoxicating; it’s utterly entrancing. I found myself in Naples, wandering the streets with Lila and Elena – exploring the little pitfalls of love and violence in their neighbourhood. As someone who doesn’t have a repertoire of these sorts of books in their shelves – I was stunned by how much I enjoyed it.
Adventure is usually my preferred category of stories. Yet, reading about the perils of friendship, and what it means to have one friend dominate (in a way) the other, and how, when paths diverge – things remain the same and yet jaw-wrenchingly different – it was incredible. It was made even more so, because I know that these plots aren’t what drew me in. I could really not be bothered with the small trivialities of Italian life in the 1950s. The way it was written though, Ferrante could make anything interesting.
Another thing that was a bit plus for me as a reader: not only was the prose insanely good, the characters grew to actual people in my own head. This first book in the series follows the two girls into their sixteenth year, and even though they are much younger than I am now – I never felt like I was reading about the lives of children. Each thought or sentence allowed me to empathise more with Elena, to feel as though she was my friend, and someone who articulated her emotions with utter truth and certainty (even though she’s most likely the most untrusted of narrators).
If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would be stunning. It drew me in from the first page and clung to my brain tightly until the end. I would highly recommend it from start to finish – definitely one of the better written books that I’ve read in the recent years.
Rating: 4.9/5 Stars