My Brilliant Friend is a rich, immersive, deeply satisfying book that, like many great novels, captures a particular time and place with complete authority. It’s a record of friendship, a wild medley of admiration, envy and rivalry between two girls in a world which is about to change.
This is an extraordinary book and, as soon as you start reading, you know you’re in the hands of an extraordinary writer. A masterpiece.
“I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence. Every sort of thing happened, at home and outside, every day, but I don’t recall having ever thought that the life we had there was particularly bad. Life was like that, that’s all, we grew up with the duty to make it difficult for others before they made it difficult for us.”
The first novel in the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante follows the intense friendship and rivalry between Elena and Raffaella (Lila) Cerullo, from the miserable outskirts of Naples after World War II. By turns, both Lila and Elena are seen to be the brilliant friend of the other; their lives, inextricably connected, dovetail and diverge over decades. This is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, but also the story of a nation.
We begin in Naples, epicentre of Italian fatalism, the heart of the Camorra crime network, the presence of which lingers in these books like a thick fog, setting a social code with which everyone must in some way reckon.
My Brilliant Friend is a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterisations. It’s also a stylish work of literary fiction and I literally couldn’t put it down.
My Amazon Link : My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One
Further Thoughts : I’ve had a number of responses to this short review. You may be better off trying a sample from Amazon before buying the book. As for me, I couldn’t wait to finish all of these intensely personal stories.