The first in The Neapolitan Novels series, My Brilliant Friend tells the story of the friendship of two girls growing up in a poor, rough neighborhood in 1950s Naples, Italy. Lila especially is compelling in her impulsive magnetism, and I related to the bookish reserve of Elena (the narrator), always trying to keep up with her friend even as she, in many ways, surpasses her. As they follow different paths and forge their own identities, the girls weather the push and pull of adolescence experienced amidst the changing political and cultural landscape that surrounds them. These novels are highly acclaimed for their literary merit, panned for their awful covers, and intriguing for the mystery surrounding the identity of Ferrante (a pen name). I will be reading the rest of the series, and I hope to catch the HBO television series adaptation of the novels that is underway.
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From the publisher’s description:
Soon to be an HBO series, book one in the New York Times bestselling Neapolitan quartet about two friends growing up in post-war Italy is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted family epic by Italy’s most beloved and acclaimed writer, Elena Ferrante, “one of the great novelists of our time.” (Roxana Robinson, The New York Times)
Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.
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.
“An intoxicatingly furious portrait of enmeshed friends,” writes Entertainment Weekly. “Spectacular,” says Maureen Corrigan on NPR’s Fresh Air. “A large, captivating, amiably peopled bildungsroman,” writes James Wood in The New Yorker
Ferrante is one of the world’s great storytellers. With My Brilliant Friend she has given her readers an abundant, generous, and masterfully plotted page-turner that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight readers for many generations to come.