Title: My Brilliant Friend
Author: Elena Ferrante
Category: Makes Ya’ Think/Can’t Put it Down
Overview: The first book in the series of Neapolitan Novels by the Italian author Elena Ferrante (a pseudonym for the mysterious writer who remains unknown.) The fourth and final installment of the Novels was published this month to much excitement from readers across the world. This first book follows the protagonist, Elena, and her closest friend, Lila, as they navigate childhood and adolescence in Naples, Italy during the late 1950’s and 60’s. Subsequent books in the series pick up in their lives where the last left off, and some reviewers have even gone so far as to say that the series is one large novel itself.
Thoughts: We’ll admit it, we were skeptical of the ‘Ferrante Fever’ surrounding the release of her final installment to the series. And yes, we did have to look up the definition of ‘bildungsroman’ on the cover of the book (which is a novel about a person’s formative years, FYI). But, we can say with confidence now, we’re hooked on the story. While the plot is focused on the two young girls’ relationship as they grow up in an impoverished and often violent neighborhood of Naples, the story pulls you in with a colorful cast of characters and scenery. The novel opens with Elena as an older woman and traces back to the very beginning of their friendship where everything began. The two young girls are competitive to the point of it nearly damaging their relationship, but in the end it pushes them to follow what they want to do. This is especially fascinating because the story takes place during an era when girls their age really had no choice in the matter.
Their relationship with each other and their relationships with their families and friends are both relatable and emotional. We were drawn into the quarrels, the hugs, and the lives of the two girls so entirely dependent on one another. From misadventures with fireworks, to navigating the dating world, to their eventual marriage proposals, we can see the girls growing and maturing before our eyes…..and we felt pretty grateful that the whole series is already out (Book #2, anyone?)! As you can see from above, this one wasn’t so easy to categorize…we really couldn’t put it down! Ferrante’s lyrical writing is like reading poetry and we almost wished we could read it in the original Italian.
Quotes to Note:
“…Lila did something unexpected. She stopped to wait for me, and when I reached her she gave me her hand. This gesture changed everything between us forever.”
Have you caught #FerranteFever? Tell us about it or recommend our next BNC Book Club read @BNCollege OR in the comments below!