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L’amica geniale #1

My Brilliant Friend

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A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.

331 pages, Paperback

First published October 19, 2011

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About the author

Elena Ferrante

27 books14.6k followers
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist. Ferrante's books, originally published in Italian, have been translated into many languages. Her four-book series of Neapolitan Novels are her most widely known works.

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5 stars
115,119 (36%)
4 stars
117,555 (37%)
3 stars
57,116 (18%)
2 stars
15,999 (5%)
1 star
5,793 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 27,946 reviews
Profile Image for Kinga.
479 reviews2,255 followers
February 11, 2015
I received this book as a Christmas present from my boss over a year ago. In fact, everyone in the office received a copy – that’s how much our boss wanted us to read it. Before you start wondering what sort of wonderful place I worked at, let me clarify it was a literary agency, so such things were totally commonplace. So despite the terrible cover, and a rather idiotic blurb I knew it would be a fine book.

No review of Ferrante’s book is complete without a mention of how no one knows who Ferrante is or even if she exists as an individual woman at all. Personally, I find this whole mystery of little interest as I share her view that all that the author wants to say she should say in the book and there is no need for the entire marketing circus.

Ferrante’s Naples novels have been compared to Knausgaard’s magnum opus because both authors can be characterised by their hyperreal scrutiny which seemingly can only be achieved in autobiographical novels. The autobiographical component is official in case of Knausgaard and alleged in Ferrante’s. Additionally, Knausgaard has happily joined the marketing circus, which is why I find Ferrante’s presumed exhibitionism a lot more palatable.

These books defiantly ignore all creative writing advice and cheerfully tell and not show, abandon all sensible plot structure and introduce as many characters as they feel like, not really caring whether that whole cast is in any way necessary. Neither do they have time for stylistic flourishes. Ferrante’s prose is bare; the language takes a back seat and is nothing more than a tool to the narrative that is pushed forward by its own urgency. What we are left with, though, is so vivid and authentic that no carefully polished novel could compete with it. This is great news. Rejoice, people, because in the age when it is possible to get a DEGREE in novel writing (without having to write anything of significance), comes a book which just doesn’t give a shit and still manages to steal the hearts of thousands.

I don’t suppose I have to explain what this book is about, because you have other reviews for that. But in short it’s about the intense friendship and rivalry between two girls growing up in the impoverished outskirts of Naples. You might argue it’s a book about female experience, and to an extent it certainly is, but judging by how much men love this book, I’d say it’s rather universal. But then, I generally feel female experience, once stripped of all telling signs could be pretty universal, because, you know, women are people too. Anyway, to me this book was more about class than gender. That constant anger, violence, the ‘let’s get them before they get us’ feel permeates the novel. And the moral, if ‘My Brilliant Friend’ has a moral at all, is that you can take a girl out of the Naples slums, but you can’t take the Naples slums out of the girl. Make no mistake, though. This is by no means an emotionally manipulative misery memoir. This is a story of childhood that simply doesn’t know it’s underprivileged.
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 259 books409k followers
December 28, 2015
I have been studying Italian in my free time and so decided to try reading one of the most popular Italian writers of today: Elena Ferrante. There have been many articles about this author's mysterious anonymity. Her real identity is unknown except to her publisher because she wishes to have a normal life. I get that. Still, it only adds to the intrigue, as you can't help but wonder who writes these marvelous books. My Brilliant Friend is not the sort of book I would normally pick up as I prefer fantasy fiction. This is contemporary realistic fiction about two women who grow up together in the 1950s and 1960s in a poor neighborhood in Naples. The cast of characters is large, and for me, an American reader, I was missing some cultural context that made it a little bewildering at first. I read the book in English (because my Italian is not that good yet) and the style was both deeply intimate and jarringly matter-of-fact. The narrator Elena tells us everything about her upbringing in a neighborhood where harsh poverty is the norm and family violence is unremarkable, even, for instance, when a father sends a daughter flying out a second story window. Elena grows up side by side with her friend/foil/personal albatross Lila, who is naturally brilliant at everything and more beautiful than Elena, but who is held down by circumstances to work in her father's shoe store while Elena has a chance to escape her life through education. The book is a blow-by-blow confessional, following the two girls from their earliest memories through their early adulthood. The short chapters keep the pages turning, and by the end of the novel I found myself very involved in the lives of the characters. It is epic in the best sense of the word, and yet quiet and personal in its scope. At the end, there is a cliffhanger so brutal I immediately had to go and buy the next volume of this series. Wow, cliffhangers work! I should try them some time . . .
Profile Image for Rebecca.
71 reviews
September 30, 2014
I tried. I tried. I tried. For 200 pages I tried to see what it is about this writer that gets such acclaim, but with 130 pages to go, I abandoned it - there are just too many other books in my waiting pile that I want to read.
This book was chosen for book club which is why I persisted so long (I normally stop reading a book pretty quickly if it doesn't engage me).
I didn't develop any concern for the characters, and found it really repetitive - different stage school/same response from parents/same competitiveness with Lila/ it just went on and on and didn't seem to GO anywhere. It was supposed to be the story of a friendship from childhood until womanhood, set in Naples in the 1950's - but I then discovered this book only goes up until the two girls are 16 - there is a sequel - and at that point I decided OH ENOUGH! I realised I was not even going to get some sort of satisfaction from finishing it. Endless minor characters proved annoying and I gave up trying to keep up with who they were (despite the list in the front of the book) as well as all the interludes with various boys.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
792 reviews
April 12, 2017
type, edit, delete,

undo delete,

type, edit, delete..

deep breath

start again

type, edit, delete…

make a coffee

type, edit, delete…

pour a drink

type, edit, delete..

desperation sets in

The dog ate my review!


Why, why, why can’t I find any words to say about this book?

The problem is I don’t know what I feel about it. In fact, the book has left me without any feelings, good or bad. It has left me blank. I’m not used to feeling blank after reading.

I read Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment last year and I was excited while reading - I felt every line of it intensely. I was so stimulated by the writing - the words and the dramatic tone seemed to match the episodes of the narrative quite perfectly - that I started writing the review even before I’d finished reading the book.

With this one, I skimmed, I nodded off, I left it down often and only reluctantly picked it up again. I finally finished it on a flight after I’d deliberately not carried any other reading material with me.

In my desperation to find something to say about the book, I even thought about rereading it…
Profile Image for Jaidee.
605 reviews1,204 followers
December 22, 2021
1 "sweet Jesus...this is the first of four books" stars !!!

2018 Read I was Most Afraid to Hate Award

First of all a bit of translation

In English we say blahblahblah. In Italian they say blablabla.

Ms. Ferrante separates this book into two sections: Childhood (18 chapters) and Adolescence (62 chapters)

Childhood Ch 1 to 9

Ms. Ferrante writes: blablablablablablablablablab and blablablablabla

Jaidee: God I hope this gets better

Childhood Ch 10-14

Ms. Ferrante writes: blablablablabla and blablablablabla

Jaidee: This is boring me to tears !

Adolescence Ch 1 - 12

Ms. Ferrante writes: bla bla bla bla bla bla blabla

Jaidee: What's with the three creepy little girls with crinoline on the cover?

Adolescence Ch 13-36

Ms. Ferrante writes: blablablablablabalbla blablablabla bla bla bla

Jaidee: Oh I guess this about a lot of blablabla....when does it get good....forty three people and their mother insisted that I read this !!

Adolescence Ch 37 to 54

Ms. Ferrante writes: blablabla blabla bla blabla bla

Jaidee: Please let this be over and What the fuck am I missing....oh yes maybe a few blablablas !!

Adolescence Ch 54 to 62

Ms. Ferrante writes: Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla !!!

Jaidee: Am I in Purgatory ??

I am guessing the content of Books 2 through 4 will be

Blablablablablabla and more blablablablablabla

I will not be finding out !

I say Bleh Bleh Blech !!
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,259 reviews5,630 followers
December 27, 2022
هذه روايةلا يمكن رفضها..لم يكتبها رجل او إمرأةبل كتبها قرين/ شيطان ليظهر خفايا مظلمة في نفس الانثى
هذا ليس سردا او بوحا عاديا..بل نافذة على ضمير انثي منذ طفولتها لشيخوختها ؛عن كل ما ينهشنا من الداخل..Screenshot-2019-01-14-19-13-20-1-1
:تحكي لنا ايلينا غريكو بصراحة لا ..لا "بشراسة"عن ليلا شيرلو

كثيرا ما خنقتني انا نيرة ثلاثة أسئلة و اجابتني عنهاببساطة صديقتي المذهلة
هل كان مصيري سيتغير
لو كنت اكثر ذكاء و اقرب للعبقرية؟
لو لم احظ بهذا الأب الناجح اللامع ؟
لو لم اختر اختياراً مصيريًا غبيا في مراهقتي و اخترت بعقلانية؟

في شمال افريقيا او جنوب امريكا او قاهرة المعز او جنوب ايطاليا
في مطلع الخمسينات او اخر التسعينات الفقر يوحد الهموم و النظرة للانثى واحدة و شقاؤها و بلاؤها و نجاتها و سقوطها دائمآ و ابدا سيظلوا في ايدي الرجال..آباء كانوا ام احباء ..اخوة او حتى ابناء ..اعداء او اصدقاء
♡قواعد الغيرة الاربعون♡
في مطلع الخمسينات و في اعقاب حرب عالميةاثقلت على اخلاقيات و مبادىء اهل اوروبا ننطلق بخطوات عنيفة للمدرسة مع ايلينا ابنة بواب البلدية في مطلع صداقتها مع ليلا ابنة اسكافي الحي النابولتاني الفقير
كم كانت ليلا مكتفية بذاتها منذ سن السادسة..
كم كانت إيلينا تستمد قيمتها من نظرة الاخرين
لنشهد صراعا قدريا بين الحظ و الشطارة
بين العبقرية و الإجتهاد
بين السمو و الخبث و الدناءة
بين الخير الذي يحمل مذاق الشر
و الحب التائه في سراديب الغيرة

☆فلتنحاز دائما للعائلة ☆
عبر عشر سنوات نشهد استمرار احدى الفتاتين في الدراسة بتفوق و استثمار الاخرى لوقتها بشكل يمنحها جاذبية مغناطيسية استثنائية
احداهما عاطفية ترفض اسرتها ذات المنبت الحقير
و الاخرى عقلانية تستبسل لتغير واقع أسرتها الفقير

☆ كن طيبا و احرص على الا يعرف احد انك طيب☆

قد لا يصدق البعض ان الطباع/المصير تتجلى نهائيا في سن12/13لذا تقاس براعة الاديب باستعادته لخلجات نفس الطفل بتجردها و عبوره للنضج ؛و كاتبتنا هنا تفوقت :بوقاحة

روايتنا عن الظل و النور ..عن شعور من يحيا مقهورا في ظل من منحته الاقدار بسخاء :عقلا و جمالا و شخصية حازمة كاسحة
عن شعور الاغتراب و الوحدة الذي تمنحه لك:القمة
عن الانسلاخ من اهانات متكررة و قبح الجهل
عن مسميات استغلالك للاخرين و استغلالهم لك
عن التوق لان تكون مقبولاً..محبوبا..و منتميا

رواية :مذهلة تركتني انا و صديقي العزيز كمال صبري متساءلين : من هو حقا الطيب هنا و من الشرس و من القبيح ؟
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,591 followers
November 18, 2018
UPDATED November 2018: here’s my review of the new HBO miniseries. Hint: It’s just as good as the book!



My Brilliant Friend, a.k.a. My Brilliant New Obsession

Believe all the hype. This is a rich, immersive, deeply satisfying book that, like many great novels, captures a particular time and place with complete authority. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series.

In a dirt poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s, bright working class girls Elena Greco (our narrator) and bestie Lila Cerrullo survive childhood and adolescence, learning how to navigate school, boys, sex and the limited opportunities available to them because of their class and gender.

Initially I found the book disorienting. The prologue is set decades later and involves people we don’t yet know. Lila has disappeared and Elena is trying to discover what happened to her. Presumably these books are her way of finding that out.

And once the story proper begins, it takes a while to keep all the names straight. Who is Nino, again? Enzo? What are the grocers called? (It doesn’t help that only Elena calls her friend Lila; everyone else calls her Lina, and her birth name is Rafaella! Also: Elena is often called Lenu.) An index of the family names at the beginning proves very helpful.

But Elena Ferrante’s prose is ravishing. It’s graceful without being precious, mature and knowing while still immediate and visceral. She literally plunges you into the lives of these children. Family vendettas take on the power of myth; middle school is a fraught war zone where learning goes beyond what’s in the books; each change in the girls' bodies is registered and assessed in terms of their newfound power (or lack of it).

Late childhood and early adolescence can be a painful time; the stakes are high; your identity isn’t yet formed. There’s a sense of danger lurking everywhere. One month that boy in class could be a friendly ally; a few months later he might spit at your feet, ignore you and take up your best friend. Every situation, not just a class assignment, is a problem to be solved.

Near the end of the book, the way one character orchestrates her way out of one engagement and into another is worthy of something from The Godfather movies.

In its insights, rich texture and violence – murder, threats, being thrown out of a window – the book reminded me of Alice Munro’s early masterpiece Lives Of Girls And Women.

And several things will continue to haunt me:

• The girls’ first trip outside their neighbourhood – when they “run away”
• How the title is mentioned in the final section of the book (this makes you wonder who, exactly, is the “brilliant” one)
• A scene in which the neighbourhood’s teens, all dressed up, cross into a fancier part of town and realize, with insecurity and anger, how limited their world and lives are
• The climactic wedding scene, in which all the threads of the story come together – sex, romance, class, destiny – up until the surprising twist in the final line, which will make you reconsider a big chunk of the story
• Elena’s introduction to the pleasures (and dangers) of sexuality
• The idea of how we sometimes act to impress friends, mimic being courageous by thinking of others' actions, or more subtly, do things while imagining our friends doing them
• The longings, fears and sheer awkwardness of adolescence
• The legacy of fascism, complete with stories about what family did what to whom, and the changing nature of Italian society
• The idea of how education gets you ahead but also alienates you from the class you might soon be leaving behind

Ferrante (a pen name) has structured the book so carefully that an early sequence in which the girls try to retrieve their dolls in a sewer contains, in miniature, everything that the book will eventually deal with: lost innocence, petty jealousy, money, imagination, sinister men, courage, and the way that one person’s account of the facts can vary drastically with the so-called truth.

Now that I've come down with "Ferrante fever," I look forward to the next novel, The Story Of A New Name.
57 reviews9 followers
September 18, 2012

The entire time I spent reading this book I asked myself "What is wrong with this book? Why am I having so much trouble getting into it?". It is incredibly slow-paced, but I also believe the Italian-to-English translation must be flawed. Many of the sentences were confusing and even contradictory. The redeeming factor, and the reason I gave it two stars instead of one, was that the Italian atmosphere was strongly prevalent and somewhat enjoyable - I learned what living in Naples in the 50s must have been like.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,817 followers
December 4, 2022

Herbert List. Foto usata per il flano dell'adattamento teatrale in lingua inglese della tetralogia ferrantiana.

Ho l’impressione che Elena Ferrante ami spiazzare il lettore, e da lettore, trovo che essere spiazzato sia una bella sensazione.

All’inizio di questo romanzo c’è un ricco elenco di famiglie e nomi e relazioni: ma non serve, non è necessario, si segue agevolmente il racconto anche senza consultarlo.


Nell’elenco sono compresi molti personaggi femminili e maschili: ma gli uomini (maschi?) fanno la solita misera figura che fanno nelle opere di questa misteriosa scrittrice – e tutti, incluse le tante donne, sono solo contorno, perché la narrazione ha ben al centro, senza deviazioni, due bambine che vediamo diventare adolescenti e giovani donne, Lila ed Elena detta Lenuccia o Lenù. Questa è la loro storia, quella della loro amicizia e della loro vita.

Si parte dall’oggi, tra Torino e Napoli, con l’io narrante già sessantenne.
Ma si dimentica presto il prologo, e Torino scompare, l’azione rimane a Napoli, in un rione di periferia e di povertà, si piomba e ci si immerge negli anni Cinquanta.
E come dicevo, presto il prologo sparisce dalla nostra attenzione, e ci si concentra su cosa succede, e molto si aspetta cosa succederà. Si ha voglia di conoscere qualcosa che in fondo sappiamo già.


Tra Lila ed Elena, io lettore avrei definito ‘amica geniale’ la prima: invece, è proprio Lila a usare questa espressione per Elena, l’io narrante.

È la storia della loro amicizia, dicevo: un’amicizia che all’inizio sembra difficile, le due si tengono distanti, quasi separate – ma si guardano, si studiano, come se si prendessero le misure.
E proprio quella più tosta, Lila, spesso definita cattiva, descritta aspra forte determinata fino alla violenza, proprio lei sarà la prima a tendere la mano.
Anche questo momento è spiazzante, arriva non previsto. Bello.

In una storia così calata nella Napoli povera del dopoguerra, aspettarsi dialoghi in dialetto è scontato. Invece, Ferrante evita, accenna appena, e rimane agganciata alla lingua comune. Come Lila, Elena Ferrante parla attraverso la scrittura: …non lasciava traccia di innaturalezza, non si sentiva l’artificio della parola scritta. Leggevo e intanto vedevo, sentivo lei.

Si respira cinema, le immagini sono incise, nitide, anche piacevolmente stereotipate: proiettare Sofia Loren o una Magnani scesa all’ombra del Vesuvio è automatico.

Però, è questione di poco, e Ferrante cambia prospettiva, perennemente affascinata da cosa c’è dietro e sotto, dal lato oscuro, come la figlia del suo penultimo romanzo, la parte cattiva, il lato indegno, perfino meschino.
Come tra Lila e Lenù la grande amicizia è basata su un gioco continuo di scambio e rovesciamento, Ferrante sorprende e confonde senza nascondere, racconta personaggi che nessuna forma può contenere, che prima o poi possono spaccare tutto un’altra volta, come succede alla pentola di rame - con un'ansia particolare, quasi urgenza di tirare fuori, spiegare, che regala a queste pagine una piacevolezza di lettura inaspettata.

Non ho nostalgia della nostra infanzia, è piena di violenza. Ci succedeva di tutto, in casa e fuori, ogni giorno, ma non ricordo di aver mai pensato che la vita che c’era capitata fosse particolarmente brutta. La vita era così e basta, crescevamo con l’obbligo di renderla difficile agli altri prima che gli altri la rendessero difficile a noi. Certo, a me sarebbero piaciuti i modi gentili che predicavano la maestra e il parroco, ma sentivo che quei modi non erano adatti al nostro rione, anche se eri femmina. Le donne combattevano tra loro più degli uomini, si prendevano per i capelli, si facevano male. Far male era una malattia.

James Franco e la Ferrante Fever.
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,547 followers
October 14, 2022
Review in English (Romanian below)

Read in Romanian, translated from Italian by Cerasela Barbone and audiobook narrated by Adriana Muraru

Finally! I read something by the mysterious Italian writer,Elena Ferrante, who seems to be worshiped by everyone. Honestly, I was expecting to hate the novel, as I seem to do with a lot of hyped authors. The subject was not necessary something I thought I would enjoy and Naples is not my favourite city in the world. For the first 50 pages or so I thought, ok, another book about families and friendship. However, the writing slowly grew on me and I became enamoured by the novel. Somehow, the author made an old and overdone subject feel fresh although not much happens. How? Was it the matter of fact writing style about horrible people and events? Was it the complex and realistic portrayal of a friendship, with its love, jealousy and sometimes-even hate? Was it the excellent and vivid portrayal of Napoli and its culture, so well done that you could see yourself there, smelling and feeling what the characters did? Maybe all of it, or none. What’s certain is that I am sold and I am looking forward to reading the next volume which I already bought in Italian.

Recenzie in romana

Citit in Romana, tradus din italiana Cerasela Barbone si audiobook narat de Adriana Muraru
In sfarsit am citit ceva scris de misterioasa si prea-slavita autoare italiana, Elena Ferrante. Sincer, ma asteptam sa urasc cartea, cum mi se intampla destul de des cu scrierile prea laudate. Subiectul nu mi se parea prea interesant iar Napoli nu este orasul meu preferat. In primele 50 de pagini mi-am zis, ok, o alta carte despre familii si prietenia intre fete/femei. Totusi, scriitura m-a prins incet cu incetul si m-am indragostit de carte. Cumva, autorul transforma un subiect banal si folosit des, in ceva prospat. Cum? Poate de vina este scrisul direct, natural despre persoane si evenimente nu prea placute. Sau poate respunzator este portretul realist si complex al prieteniei dintre Lila si Elena, cu momente de dragoste, gelozie si chiar ura? Oare o fi descrierea excelenta a orasului Napoli, astfel incat sa te simti acolo, ca vezi, mirosi si traiesti impreuna cu personajele cartii? Poate toate aceste motive, sau poate nici unul. Ceea ce este cert este ca autoarea m-a castigat si deabia astept sa conntinui cu al doilea volum.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
June 1, 2023
The thing about this book is that the more that happened, the less I liked it.

At the beginning of this book, there was no plot. Just vibes. Just two kids existing in Italy and being good at school. Sometimes they go into the sewer, where they are convinced a Pennywise-esque interpretation of their scary neighbor has made his weird little home. Sometimes they throw rocks at children, or have rocks thrown at them. These are fun moments.

But they are just events with no throughline. The writing is pretty, the characters are intriguing, the shifting dynamics are present and accounted for, and there is very little story or tension or anything to pull you along.

That's my kind of book.

Then these characters grow up (gross) and fall in love (disgusting) and have a story! Of all things!

The betrayal when, past the halfway point, this suddenly had a plot...devastating.

No one has been as upset and surprised as I was at the inevitability of adulthood's approach since Peter Pan.

Bottom line: Go back to the good stuff!!!! (No stuff.)

(But the non-no stuff stuff was still good stuff.)


crazy that i just lived my entire childhood, adolescence, and teenager-dom in italy today alone.

review to come / 3.5 stars

currently-reading updates


clear ur shit prompt 4: a book people talk about
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something i love to do is read the first few pages of a book in a bookstore, convince myself i cannot live without it, purchase it, and then let it sit on my shelves without reading it for months on end.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
December 2, 2015
This novel has so much violence that it should come with some kind of rating. Seriously, I had no idea it was so dangerous to grow up in Naples.

"I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence."

My Brilliant Friend is the story of two childhood friends, Elena and Lila. It is the first in a series, and I confess that when I started reading it, I did not intend to continue with them — I was just going to read this first one to see what all the fuss over Ferrante was about.

It took me a while to get into the book; there are so many families in the neighborhood, and everyone has nicknames that it was tough to remember who was who and who did what to which relative. (There is a cast of characters listed at the front of the book, but it's still confusing.) About midway through the book, I really connected with the two main characters, especially after they started going to school. I could relate to Elena's jealousy about Lila, and how she admired and imitated her strength. Occasionally Lila opens up and admits how important Elena is to her, and those moments are lovely. Ferrante's descriptions are so good that eventually it felt as if I had been living with these families.

But what exactly is the story, you ask? Well, there are lots of them. There are stories about cruel boys in the neighborhood. There are stories about Lila's dream of making it rich by designing special shoes to sell. There are stories about the competitions at school, and how Elena and Lila would push each other to learn more. There are stories of Lila's family, and how her father would abuse her when he lost his temper. There are stories about the men who pursued Lila when she became a beautiful teenager, and how she risked offending a powerful family. There is the story of Elena's first boyfriend, and how she has to navigate high school. And finally, there is the story of a wedding.

The wedding scene is what closes out this first novel, and something happens there that convinced me to read the second book. You win, Ferrante.

Update: A Few Weeks Later
I have gotten so involved in this series that I am reading Book 3 and have already ordered Book 4. My advice to those starting out is to be patient with this first novel -- a lot of the events that happen in Elena's childhood have long-lasting effects, like seeds that had to be planted so they could sprout later on. The more I read about these two women, the more I admire them. I highly recommend these Ferrante novels.

Favorite Quote
"Right away, from the first day, school had seemed to me a much nicer place than home. It was the place in the neighborhood where I felt safest, I went there with excitement. I paid attention to the lessons, I carried out with the greatest diligence everything that I was told to carry out, I learned. But most of all I liked pleasing the teacher, I liked pleasing everyone."

A Disturbing But Incredible Passage
"We lived in a world in which children and adults were often wounded, blood flowed from the wounds, they festered, and sometimes people died. One of the daughters of Signora Assunta, the fruit and vegetable seller, had stepped on a nail and died of tetanus. Signora Spagnuole's youngest child had died of croup. A cousin of mine, at the age of twenty, had gone one morning to move some rubble and that night was dead, crushed, the blood pouring out of his ears and mouth. My mother's father had been killed when he fell from a scaffolding at a building site. The father of Signor Peluso was missing an arm, the lathe had caught him unawares. The sister of Giuseppina, Signor Peluso's wife, had died of tuberculosis at twenty-two. The oldest son of Don Achille — I had never seen him, and yet I seemed to remember him — had gone to war and died twice: drowned in the Pacific Ocean, then eaten by sharks. The entire Melchiorre family had died clinging to each other, screaming with fear, in a bombardment. Old Signorina Clorinda had died inhaling gas instead of air. Guanine, who was in fourth grade when were were in first, had died one day because he had come across a bomb and touched it. Legion, with whom we had played in the courtyard, or maybe not, she was only a name, had died of typhus. Our world was like that, full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection. With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life."
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,390 followers
October 7, 2018
[4.5 stars]
If I were to describe Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend in one word it would be 'mythic.' The minutiae of Elena and Lila's lives into which Ferrante dives takes on these mythic proportions, pulling the reader along on a tense and frightful story. But at first glance, the story is anything but tense and frightful. It's a story of female friendship, between two lower-class girls in Naples following WWII. Ferrante, with precision and passion, recounts the lives of these girls as anything less than ideal. There's an underlying push and pull to their friendship that goes against the expected narrative of girlhood. It's compelling and constantly teetering on the edge of disaster, again bringing back this theme of myth and how each detail lends itself to something greater, something disastrous.

We learn as the characters learn. Ferrante excels at establishing a tone fit to the story. When Elena, our narrator, is unsure, we are unsure. When she's jealous, we're jealous. She's spiteful at times, and compassionate at others. It all builds upon itself to create a vivid atmosphere that is only enhanced by the gritty Neapolitan setting.

I wasn't convinced by the first half of the book. But the second part really sold me. And I think that if I were to go back now and re-read the beginning, I'd be much more comfortable with the characters, the setting and the narrative structure. It's disconcerting and disorienting at first, getting thrown into a world with so many characters and so little hand-holding. But I appreciate Ferrante's confidence in the reader. She gives you more than you might handle, but once you get a grip on it, it's incredibly satisfying. I'm intrigued to see where the story goes, so much so that I ordered the next book in the series immediately after finishing this one. I only expect the books to get better and better; and based on what Ferrante's proved with this one, I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

First read: January 14-23, 2016
Second read: December 23-26, 2016
Third read: October 3-7, 2018
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,124 followers
June 25, 2015

When did we all start talking about Elena Ferrante, guys? I can’t remember- was it last year? Maybe 2013? I know she’s been writing for far longer than that, but it was definitely only recently that she became A Thing. Whenever it was, we should have been talking about her sooner.

And with different words. Better words. Words whose value hasn’t been sucked out by the marketing blurbs they’ve been a part of, with the same accompanying modifiers (if I never hear “compulsively readable” again that would be okay with me, marketing departments). Too many eyes will glaze over when I use these words that would once have excited the grab-the-keys-and-run-to-the-bookstore response this book deserves. And that might make you, like me, not pick this up for absolutely years after you read this.

So I need better words. Words that will make you pick it up tomorrow. Because I still can’t believe I somehow developed the impression that this was a book that I could miss. How did I somehow think this wasn’t a series of books that I should have had on pre-order every time like it was Game of Thrones? (… or, you know, something better than that given the quality of the last installment.)

But in the absence of an unused vocabulary floating around somewhere I’ll try to convince you with the words I have, because- and please read this in the tone of your dad giving advice at a crucial life moment-I don’t want you to make the mistakes that I did, sonny boy.

How do I love this novel? Let me count the ways…

* * *

My Brilliant Friend is the first installment of Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy. It is an old woman’s memories of her friendship with a girl named Lila in the slums of 1950s Naples. They are both clever girls growing up in the midst of a grinding cycle of poverty and isolation generated by the problems of the post-war, post-Fascist Italian state (and the pre-war, mostly-in-name-only Italian “unification”). Both of them, along with the other children of the neighborhood, have a possibility of escaping the cycle and breaking out into the new Marshall Plan supported dolce vita- and some of the story is about that. But not mostly. Mostly it’s about what it’s like to be blessed/cursed enough to have a childhood friend who is the center of your universe, and how that friendship can literally change all the things in your life, and make you the person that you are in the process of becoming.

Straightforward enough, yes? You’ve read that before. Sure…but then why is it so poignant? Why did I spend hours upon hours with this book yesterday, unable to put it down? How did such an ordinary story work such undeniable magic?

There are many answers to that, but let’s start with this: The story. The plot was the most natural, organic thing I’ve ever read. She started telling it and kept on doing it without pauses for literary reflections or metaphors, or for pretty much anything that might send the “oh right, this is fiction,” signal to your brain. She let the damn thing be and run its course without interfering. She didn’t shy away from having her character be involved in all the quotidian things of childhood or adolescence- zits, dresses, best friends, boyfriends, finding out what bad words mean, and endless status competitions. But never once did she make it feel tired or like something I’ve read a zillion times. Nobody came equipped with signifier clue words or pre-packaged, recognizable YA storylines, with immature emotional truths being repeated in italics, in between descriptions of clothing and hair. And you know what was fascinating? There totally was a popular girl everyone wanted here, there were mean bullies, nerdy intellectuals, hot jocks, slutty cheerleaders, apparently motivationlessly awful villains, and our heroine was even intellectual and had glasses. But that never occurred to me until I started to write this review.

This is mostly because Ferrante allows her characters a kind of full, honest emotional range of expression that I’ve rarely seen in books about children and teenagers. She conveys the pettiness and center-of-the-universe feeling that characterizes childhood without ever quite making you detach from or become disgusted with the characters involved. When someone’s doll is thrown away, and another character retaliates, instead of rolling her eyes and refereeing whose fault it is, Ferrante just keeps staring at both characters and watching them go through that moment and what happens afterwards. There’s no adult intervention, whether that’s with an adult character or with an adult narrator.

As is typical with Ferrante, this is deliberate a choice that serves several purposes at once. One of which is to highlight the lack of fully developed adults anywhere in these children’s lives. This is one of the many effective ways Ferrante finds to seep you in the atmosphere of the Naples neighborhood where this all takes place, right from the beginning, but beautifully, dropping it in between the cracks of action and thought:

“I waited to see if Lila would have second thoughts and turn back. I knew what she wanted to do, I had hoped that she would forget about it, but in vain. The street lamps were not yet lit, nor were the lights on the stairs. From the apartments came irritable voices. To follow Lila, I had to leave the bluish light of the courtyard and enter the black of the doorway. When I finally made up my mind, I saw nothing at first, there was only an odor of old junk and DDT. Then I got used to the darkness… We kept to the side where the wall was, she two steps ahead, I two steps behind, torn between shortening the distance or letting it increase. I can still feel my shoulder inching along the flaking wall and the idea that the steps were very high, higher than my own apartment across the way… There was an odor of sautéing garlic. Maria, Don Achille’s wife, would put me in the pan of boiling oil, the children would eat me, he would suck my head the way my father did with mullets…”

Never once does she need to set aside pages and pages of description as some authors do, because it’s given to us in pieces like that, while we’re following the action, until we have a full picture of a crumbling courtyard of a creaky old apartment building on a beaten down street in a bad part of town without ever really knowing how we got there.

She also does a lot, effectively, with repetition. Repetition shows us a lot about why the characters are the way that they are. The violence of the neighborhood, in particular, is depicted with a frighteningly normalizing banality. We see violence happen over and over again- not as an isolated, cinematic horror, the fright of one’s life- as something mentioned as an afterthought, “they argued, and then sometimes, after dinner, he beat her.” The deliberate use of “sometimes” was chilling, like we’re not even hearing about all the other times when it happens. It’s not even worthy of comment. What’s even more terrifying is the dispassionate, impartial gaze turned on it by a narrator who has never known anything different. It only occurs to the sixty year old character who is the actual narrator of the story about two-thirds of the way through to get outside of herself and mention that she realizes now that her neighborhood was not the norm- it’s like in telling the story she put herself back under the spell and forgot that herself. It takes something 2015 Hollywood-level cinematically, publicly violent for anyone to feel the slightest bit bad about something that happens- The pernicious, weed-like growth of a particularly violent form of aggressive masculinity is at the root of most of the problem, but its societal reinforcement and indeed, the respect shown for those who display it, is shown, through this enforced repetition, to be the true cancer that not even young boys with the best of intentions and a deliberate intent to break the cycle seem to be able to escape. (Not to mention the girls who never had a chance to begin with.)

Something that further increased the powerfully true impression I got from her writing was her gentle use of not-quite chronological time. Time in the novel wavers into being, then very slowly circles back to its origin point until you’ve almost forgotten where you started. But even this tried and true literary device never felt like a literary device. Again, it was so well and seamlessly executed it felt like a natural, organic process that was necessary to telling the story. It was like what happens when someone is telling you a story and realizes you don’t have the context to understand it, so they back it up and up until they feel they’ve given you the whole story, and then only just remember why they were telling you the story in the first place.

But beyond that, the prose itself: Ferrante has that magical Tolstoy thing. The power of it isn’t in the individual sentence, which I guarantee you will be perfectly ordinary, but a string of sentences put together in just the right order. It is almost never going to be a striking word choice that nabs you, but rather a continuous flow that lulls you into its depths so that you’re surprised awake occasionally, just realizing that it’s happened to you. I honestly can’t think of anybody else except Tolstoy when he’s not ranting or religious, or Austen when she wasn’t being mischievous or clever, who can give the impression of being so utterly absent, as if someone simply left a kind of recorder on that would let you see what was going on inside and outside of the characters’ heads.

But while the plot is compelling enough, the hot, poisonous atmosphere and her rare gift for naturalistic, barely-there powerful writing are more than enough reason to show up, that's what you notice later, after you’re done and you can breathe normally again.
At the time all you really notice are these girls. It’s Lila. Lila, Lila, Lila. If you’ve ever been friends with someone who was demonstrably smarter than you (or you were so convinced they were as to make no difference), then you know Lila. You know what it’s like to know that no matter what you do you’ll always feel inferior- whether they praise you or encourage you or not. It makes so much sense to me that Lila was the transformative experience for Elena. She’s a heady thing for a child to experience. She is a person who is seemingly born free of gaze. She’ll process what you say for the words you actually use- not the social status you have while you say it, not the yearning she has to be like you or not like you at all, nor does she care about the image she is projecting to you. One of the things the narrator worries about in Lila in 1950s Italy is that she doesn’t have the instinctive, eyes down response that the other girls do when they are getting harassed on the street. Lila threatens people with a knife, or simply asks them curious questions about what on earth they’re talking about when they do that to her. She literally stares down or completely ignores a gaze that is the all-encompassing foundation, path and walls of all the women (and, to be frank, most of the men) around her. That’s an intoxicating cocktail of a thing to be around. A possibly dangerous, even ruinous thing to be around, if you’re a smart, insecure teenager with an imagination and a constant societal message that you are not good enough.

Like Elena, the narrator. Her character development was very cleverly done. She had us, and Elena, so focused on her friend that her own story seems to happen under the radar, in asides, as if just necessary for context and to get us to the next Lila story. Which is a brilliant way to depict someone with the kind of self-esteem issues and brewing existential problems that are the major driver of most of Elena’s choices. She becomes a person somewhere along the way, without even realizing it- she builds an entire personality around Lila, the only thing she can see as worth motivating herself for in her horrible little dirty world. But it makes her beautiful moment of self-awareness at the end of the novel all the more poignant. She is shocked to discover that a disappointment she has in her own life, unrelated to Lila in any way, is important to her. This realization of her own, independent being as a person means she is able to have her first out of body experience, and look beyond the isolation and suffocation of her neighborhood to see herself with a gaze that might actually benefit her, in the end:

“I discovered that I had considered the publication of those few lines, my name in print, as a sign that I really had a destiny, that the hard work of school would surely lead upward, somewhere, that Maestra Oliviero had been right to push me forward and to abandon Lila. “Do you know what plebs are?” “Yes, Maestra.” And at that moment I knew what plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and was now leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost.”

But most of all there is the friendship between these two girls. The content of it is some of the most honest that I’ve seen. It’s neither a sentimental Victorian ode to sisterly support nor is it as cynical as some more modern reinterpretations of female friendship would suggest. It trusts you to understand that these are real people and to acknowledge that because you are willing to acknowledge it within yourself without ever telling you to acknowledge it. We know that the narrator doesn’t mean it maliciously, necessarily, when she needs a boyfriend because she thinks her friend has one, that she throws her friend’s doll down a hole because her friend did, that she feels better if she looks a little better than her sometimes. We also see that whenever something truly bad happens to her friend she notices it and she helps- she gets her through some tough situations when she has no obligation to. We also see how fixated she is on her friend, and how nothing is really worth it to her if she doesn’t share in it with her: she shows us what it means when your life is really, as literally as possible, almost entirely about your perception of another person. We see this so often in the context of romantic literature, but almost never in the context of friendship. I think the latter is far more common

I do not claim the novel is faultless. There were two moments where her assured voice broke and she fell down into the exaggerated metaphorical exercises I was so happy to see absent from most of the book. (Though one of those times is forgivable, because it came from a dramatic adolescent who dramatically drew out the metaphor herself in the weird, obsessive way that teenagers do. I also did wish that we might have spent slightly more time with the narrator herself, in her own home and her own life so that we might have gotten to know her better. But that was a reader’s wish for a sympathetic character to know herself better, mostly- that’s not what this story was about. It would have been the poorer for following what I wanted it to do. The faults were mostly the faults of the character, put there deliberately to emphasize a character trait.

So perhaps it is nearly faultless after all. What did I miss? Maybe someone else can tell me where she went wrong, because I can’t find it. Or I probably could, actually, but I think I’ll be much too busy reading the next installment: The Story of a New Name. Which, I predict, is exactly what you’ll be doing as soon as you finish this book.

Go on. I’ll get you started…..

“My friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille’s apartment. I remember the violet light of the courtyard, the smells of a warm spring evening. The mothers were making dinner, it was time to go home, but we delayed, challenging each other, without ever saying a word, testing our courage…..”

(This book originally appeared on my blog at: http://shouldacouldawouldabooks.com/2... )
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
March 2, 2018
From the age of two until twelve, I lived in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. During the Industrial Revolution, Merthyr had briefly been the iron capital of the world, but things didn't work out; iron ore became harder to mine, the people running the refining works didn't adopt modern methods quickly enough, the town was too far from the sea. Everything fell apart, and by the 1930s unemployment was running at 80%. When I arrived with my parents in 1960, things had become a little better, but the town was still one of the poorest in Britain.

Why did we move there? It was the time of the counter-culture: some idealistic peace protesters had decided to found a commune - I still have no idea why they chose Merthyr - and my parents wanted to join them. The members of the commune didn't get on, the usual story, and after a couple of years they disbanded. We were stuck in Merthyr, and that's where I grew up. I attended primary school at Heolgerrig, a little village just outside town. In summer, I walked to and from school, a pleasant trip that lasted about forty minutes. In winter, my siblings and I took the bus.

There were two kinds of children at Heolgerrig. The smaller group was the contingent of middle-class kids, most of whom lived on the new estate just down the road from the school. They spoke normal English, though with a Welsh accent, and their parents had white-collar jobs. A couple of other kids also belonged to this group; the one I remember best was Avril Griffiths, the vicar's daughter. Avril was a fat, priggish girl with an annoying manner, whom I hated for all of the five years we were in the same class together. Her younger brother, Wayne, was a bully, and I hated him too. But the majority of the class was quite different. They were the children of the local working class, spoke Welsh by preference, and were poor, dirty and violent.

Violence was an integral part of school life. There were fights all the time in the playground, and they weren't friendly; the kids generally wanted to hurt each other. The teachers made frequent use of physical punishment when they thought things were getting out of hand, or sometimes, I thought, just because they were crazy too. There was one particularly dangerous teacher called Mr Haines. He would yell at us when we didn't understand his questions: his favorite expression was "Blocks of wood!" I can hear him yelling it now. He liked to use his cane. The boys, even at age eight or nine, were already fond of playing sexual games. One day, the biggest gang started a game called "Kiss chase", which involved kidnapping girls and dragging them back to the boys' lavatory. I never learned exactly what happened to them there, but when Mr Haines found out he completely lost it and thrashed all the boys who had taken part. I now realise that he only hit the poor, Welsh-speaking boys. I never got hit.

But this kind of violence was only a kind of muted background noise behind the real incidents, surprisingly many of which involved permanent disfigurement or death. One boy in the class above me managed to put an eye out using some wood-carving tools; another was killed when he was showing off by the side of the road and fell in front of a car. A particularly memorable and gruesome story started when the school decided to retire the ancient classroom furniture, units which had the seat attached to the desk with a heavy cast-iron frame, and replace them with modern tubular steel tables and plastic chairs. We didn't much like the change, but the upside was that the old desks had not been taken away. They were stacked in a shed out at the side of the yard, and they made a great climbing-frame. Unfortunately, they had not been stacked very carefully. One day a pile collapsed and killed a young child, not one I knew. A couple of weeks later, a fire started during the middle of the night and burned down half the school. It only occurred to me much later that these two events might have been linked. All of the foregoing, however, were still comparatively minor incidents. The big one happened at 9.15 am on October 21 1966 in Aberfan, a few miles down the road from us. A large slag-heap, which hadn't been properly maintained, suddenly turned into a landslide as a result of heavy rainfall. It buried the local school and killed (I just looked it up in Wikipedia) 116 children and 28 adults. My father wanted to go and help with the search and rescue effort; we started crying and made such a fuss that we managed to dissuade him.

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I liked this novel very much. It reminded me of my childhood.

[To Le nouveau nom]
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,223 followers
March 7, 2016
“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” So said Virginia Woolf and this, the forging of identity in relationship, is very much the theme of Elena Ferrante’s compelling novel. Elena, the narrator of the novel, is in first grade when we first meet her. She lives in a violent and impoverished working class district of Naples where kindred spirits or role models are hard to find. Certainly not her mother – “My mother did her best to make me understand that I was superfluous in her life. I wasn’t agreeable to her nor was she to me. I found her body repulsive.” Then she meets Lila. Lila is a wild child with exalted sensibility and intelligence for her age. In Lila Elena finally identifies an ideal she can aspire to. The portrait of Elena and Lila’s bond is the novel’s masterstroke. As all around them the somewhat coarse uneducated boys of the neighbourhood seek to distort and shape the girls to suit their own masculine vanity – “dissolve the margins” of separation - the two girls forge an independence of spirit that is nurtured by the inspiration they find in each other. They create a compelling and exciting inner world together, a stage on which they both are able to dramatise themselves as the heroines of their own fate. The novel is the story of their friendship and Elena’s attempts to transcend her background of thrift and mean spirited bullying.

It’s an unusual and highly distinctive novel (visually reminiscent of de Sica’s early brilliant films). Essentially because of the intensity and lucidity of Ferrante’s prose. She manages to write about the most prosaic detail with a kind of hallucinatory urgency and as such her voice hits exactly the right notes in expressing the joys and torments of adolescence when every day seems to hold moments of both pivotal humiliation and triumph, moments few adults are capable of perceiving. Thus the narrative is a constant high tension wire where the mundane relentlessly spills over into epiphany or violence. There’s a passage when Elena is writing about Lila’s prose style which would serve as the perfect eulogy of Ferrante’s prose style – “She expressed herself in sentences that were well constructed, and without error, even though she had stopped going to school, but – further – she left no trace of effort, you weren’t aware of the artifice of the written word. I read and I saw her, heard her. The voice set in the writing overwhelmed me, enthralled me even more than when we talked face to face; it was completely cleansed of the dross of speech, the confusion of the oral.”
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.7k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 26, 2015
I just don't get the hype. I found the writing (or translation) incredibly choppy and the story overlong, repetitive and incoherent at times.

There must be better writers in Italy than Ferrante.
Profile Image for Dolors.
541 reviews2,282 followers
February 1, 2019
Much has been said about this book, the first of the Naples trilogy, and by many.
I opened this novel with the expectation to be enthralled in a world I could relate to, with characters that would bring back echoes of my own childhood and adolescence and also hoping to be surprised by Ferrante’s unique conception of friendship.
It turns out the book did nothing of the sort. That doesn’t mean I can���t understand why some readers feel attracted to it, as I detect a sort of addictiveness in Ferrante’s style that I can’t rightly place. My fault, probably.

Ferrante’s ability to paint a dexterous tableau vivant of Naples in the mid-fifties is undeniable; its gratuitous gender violence, the pressing presence of the Camorra that threatens the lives of young and old in a modest working neighborhood, the weight of a patriarchal system that harasses girls of all ages… it all leaps off the page, and yet, and yet…
My reservations arise from the lack of emotion with which all the above is framed by the two protagonists of the story: Lenu and Lila. They couldn’t be more different, Lila is daring, kind of a rebel, Lenu is dependant, a follower. And still, who is the “brilliant friend” in this story? The narrator or the narrated? Ferrante seems to suggest that Lila’s potential is subdued by her circumstances, but Lenu manages to flourish in them, as if she sucked her friend’s talent in spite of her apparent dominance over everybody around her.
Promising, right?
There is basis for a great story in this novel, one that could easily portray the true meaning of friendship, including its ugly side marred by envy and jealousy, but my response is undermined by the way in which Ferrante carried it through, which was, in my opinion, insipid in literary terms. Flat. Lifeless. I wasn’t pulled into the story, I couldn’t empathize with neither of the characters and I did find little narrative beauty in Ferrante’s unpolished sentences.

I’ll confess that the last page didn’t urge me to get the next installment; I just felt relieved to see the abrupt ending that gave me the perfect excuse to let these two girls go on their ways without me.
Closing the book felt like having eaten a bunch of junk food, easy to gobble up but knowing it will provide little nourishment to one’s body…or reading soul, in this case. So, no harm in doing that from time to time, but not on a daily basis.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
April 12, 2020
A fast-paced coming-of-age novel charting the ups and downs of an intense friendship between two working-class Italian girls. Set in the ‘50s on the outskirts of Naples, the sprawling story follows author-narrator Elena and her clever best friend Lila as the two strive for greatness, wealth, and knowledge in a neighborhood beset by patriarchal feuds and gendered violence. The prose is bare, the pacing swift, the plotting episodic, the characters many and quickly sketched; with writing that feels tailored for screen adaptation, the book reads as a literary soap. Not everything works—Elena’s family feels faintly drawn, and some of the character arcs are uneven—but it’s hard to put the novel down.
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,716 followers
December 31, 2016
"It was as if, because of an evil spell, the joy or sorrow of one required the sorrow or joy of the other; even our physical aspect, it seemed to me, shared in that swing."

Elena and Lila, a friendship born of necessity – the need to find another human soul that understands us, our longings and sorrows - someone to emulate, someone that drives each of us to become our very best self. These two girls, born into poverty in 1950s Naples, forge a relationship that is both captivating and completely authentic. There is something about a novel told from the point of view of an adult looking back at his or her childhood that thoroughly captures my attention and feels so convincing. Even if I cannot relate to the circumstances or the surroundings, the emotions are so very real and bring back such sharp memories of my own inexperience and innocent yearnings.

With keen insight and skillful writing, Elena Ferrante has crafted a vivid account of two young lives struggling to rise above the usual fate of those born into such harsh conditions. The impoverishment and violence of the neighborhood are part of the daily fabric of Elena and Lila’s lives, but they dream of a life elevated above those around them. The key to achieving this dream – education. "In that last year of elementary school, wealth became our obsession. We talked about it the way characters in novels talk about searching for treasure… Then, I don’t know why, things changed and we began to link school to wealth. We thought that if we studied hard we would be able to write books and that the books would make us rich. Wealth was still the glitter of gold coins stored in countless chests, but to get there all you had to do was go to school and write a book." Oh yes, there was a time when I believed diligent studying would achieve similar results! What little girl doesn’t dream of becoming rich or famous?! Both girls work hard, but it is quite evident that Lila is the dominant one in the relationship – academics come easy to her and Elena finds herself wanting to reach those same heights. She often feels inferior to Lila and it becomes her goal to keep up with her, but believing she can never surpass the brilliance of her friend.

Of course, the competition between two coming-of-age girls doesn’t just end at schoolwork. The fragility of such a relationship is further tested by the attraction they hold for the boys of the neighborhood. In this arena, Elena perhaps feels she has an advantage over Lila: "In general I was the pretty one, while she was skinny, like a salted anchovy, she gave off an odor of wildness, she had a long face, narrow at the temples, framed by two bands of smooth black hair." However, true to the nature of girlhood, feelings of inadequacy settle in and Elena feels second-string once again. "But Lila now had retaken the upper hand, satisfaction had magnified her beauty, while I, overwhelmed by schoolwork, exhausted by my frustrated love for Nino, was growing ugly again. My healthy color faded, the acne returned. And suddenly one morning the specter of glasses appeared."

I couldn’t help but wish that Elena would stand up for herself, value herself as an individual separate from her attachment to Lila. Lila, the leader and Elena, the follower – certainly a familiar dynamic in a friendship. I wonder who benefits most from these friendships. Perhaps Elena needed the competition to drive her own ambition and rise above her circumstances. But Lila too needed someone to ground her, give her some sense of stability in her own life. I think perhaps such relationships are fluid – giving and receiving on both ends at different times, always changing along with the trials and tribulations each experiences. Ferrante does an exceptional job of examining the complexities of friendships and this is what I found to be the most fascinating aspect of this novel. The ending leaves one with a question and the desire to grab the second book in the series. Without a doubt, I will do exactly that. I am eager to follow not just Elena and Lila’s friendship but also to learn more about the fate of the large cast of characters – especially Nino, Stefano, Rino, Pasquale, Antonio, and even the city of Naples itself.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,182 followers
August 13, 2023
Born into a poor and violent neighbourhood, plagued by death, most people accept their fate, some dream, and a few make plans. For Elena, the narrator, studying hard becomes the likely route out. Lila, the shoe-mender’s daughter, hopes her fantastical shoe designs will one day bring wealth. Footwear is a transformative element in so many myths and fairytales, it seems apt: Hermes/Mercury, Cinderella, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Puss in Boots, The Wizard of Oz, and The Red Shoes.

Image: Mythical winged sandals (Source)

This charts the early years of Elena and Lila’s lives, as friends and rivals, bonded forever, whatever the future may hold.

Location: time and place

We lived in a world in which children and adults were often wounded, blood flowed from the wounds, they festered, and sometimes people died.
The setting is utterly alien: 1950s (mostly) in an impoverished, closely interconnected neighbourhood of Naples, where people speak a slum dialect rather than “school Italian”, and the Neapolitan equivalent of the mafia, the Camorra, hold sway.
There were no written rules, everyone knew that’s how it was.

But it’s so vividly portrayed, filled with universal experiences (childhood friendships and fears, mythologising, dares, competitiveness, battles with parents, shame, showing off, puberty, sexual stirrings, fashion, slut and fag-shaming, manipulative and difficult relationships), that there’s familiarity too - despite the normalised violence and abuse.

Roots and routes

School gives Elena the possibility of a different life, but it increasingly distances her from those she is growing up with.
I had grown up with these boys, I considered their behaviour normal, their violent language was mine. But for six years now I had also been following daily a path that they were completely ignorant of… With them… I had to suppress myself.

When Don Sarratore publishes a book of poems and moves to a better area, she begins to believe it is possible to escape one’s roots - for people like her to succeed, even by writing (she doesn’t seem to consider it might be easier for a man).
Was it possible that only our neighborhood was filled with conflicts and violence, while the rest of the city was radiant and benevolent?

Nevertheless, Elena’s childhood means that long after she’s moved away, violence, death, and poverty are among “the many fears that accompanied me all my life”.

Yin and yang

A continuous game of exchanges and reversals.
Again and again, Lila’s and Elena’s experiences switch: when one is happy or pretty or popular, the other is not - until it flips.

Yet despite that, broad differences persist. Lila is wild and angry, brilliant and, eventually, beautiful. By age six, she’s taught herself to read, despite living in a barely literate household. Elena is scared and in awe of her, but decides to accept Lila’s superiority, while being determined to keep up with her:
That was my way of reacting to envy, and hatred, and of suffocating them.
Even in the context of school work, the vocabulary is violent.

My life was splendid but uneventful… while hers was dark but full.
It seems that Lila is the brilliant one, going to waste, while Elena succeeds through hard graft and being allowed to continue in school. But it’s Lila who tells Elena, “You’re my brilliant friend”.

Dissolving margins

In childhood, the girls are constrained within their tiny neighbourhood, but as teens they occasionally venture to more affluent areas.
It was like crossing a border. I remember a dense crowd and a sort of humiliating difference… The women: they were absolutely different from us. They seemed to have breathed another air… They didn’t see any of the five of us.

This is a grimly and sublimely realistic novel, with an intriguing exception: Lila’s occasional experience of “dissolving margins”. It could be a type of migraine or a touch of magical-realism. Either way, it’s also a metaphor for the boundaries and breaches that run through the book.

Image: Children playing in the street in Naples, c1950 (Source)


When I opened this medium-length novel, I was startled by the dauntingly long cast list. When I finished, I was startled that it just stopped, in the middle of a big celebration, with trouble brewing. That’s because this is actually an epic novel published in 4 volumes, following Elena and Lila, born in Naples c1944, from childhood to old age. This one has a short present-day prologue, 60 pages about their childhood, and 240 of their adolescence. I will get the other three volumes.


• “Trained by our school books to speak with great skill about what we had never seen we were excited by the invisible.”

• “She took the facts and in a natural way charged them with tension; she intensified reality as she reduced it to words.”

• “The sea. But what a sea. It was very rough, and loud; the wind took your breath away, pasted your clothes to your body and blew the hair off your forehead… The waves rolled in like blue metal tubes carrying an egg white of foam on their peaks, then broke in a thousand glittering splinters and came up the street.”

• “I lay in the sun reading, dissolving into the pages like a jellyfish.”

• “I was terrified… by the horror it created, but the pleasure that I nevertheless felt.” [a brave, but plausible description of a teen being gently (only in a physical sense) sexually assaulted]

• “She gave off a glow that seemed a violent slap in the face of the poverty of the neighborhood.”

• “The embarrassment of gazing with pleasure at her body… I was washing her… just so that [person] could sully her.”

• “To listen to him lighted up my mind almost the way Lila once had.”

The Neapolitan quartet

1. My Brilliant Friend, read November ‘22, 4* (this review).
2. The Story of a New Name, read April ‘23, 4*, review HERE.
3. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, tbr.
4. The Story of the Lost Child, tbr.

Who's the “brilliant” one?
In book 1, Lila calls Elena her brilliant friend.
In book 2, their old teacher says that Lila was the best student she ever taught.

Profile Image for Warwick.
844 reviews14.6k followers
March 13, 2018
Early in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, the narrator arrives at the eponymous farmhouse and has the following exchange with the Earnshaws' servant, Joseph:

‘What are ye for?’ he shouted. ‘T' maister's down i' t' fowld. Go round by th' end o' t' laith, if ye went to spake to him.’

‘Is there nobody inside to open the door?’ I hallooed, responsively.

‘There's nobbut t' missis; and shoo'll not oppen 't an ye mak' yer flaysome dins till neeght.’

Charming. Now imagine, for a moment, that the scene had instead been written like this:

‘What do you want?’ he shouted in dialect. ‘The master's down in the fold. Go round past the end of the barn if you want to speak to him.’

‘Is there nobody inside to open the door,’ I hallooed, responsively, in English.

‘There's no one but the mistress; and she won't open even if you make that dreadful noise until nighttime.’

It's more immediately comprehensible, certainly; but it's productive to think about what might have been lost in such a version. This is somewhat the situation you are in with Elena Ferrante's novels, in which the use of ‘dialect’ is made to assume gigantic significance, while never actually being shown to us.

At first I thought the constant dialogue tags – ‘she said in Italian’, ‘he replied in dialect’ – were a device of the translator to show where Ferrante herself was switching between standard Italian and Neapolitan. But no; in fact, the original writing is all in purest Italian and those markers (in dialetto, in italiano) are just the same for Italian readers as they are for me. While I was reading, and enjoying, this book, I was also struggling to work out what about this was bothering me.

The thing is, casual readers would be forgiven for thinking that Ferrante's ‘dialect’ is some ungrammatical or degraded urban street version of Italian; in fact, of course, Neapolitan is a sister-language with a long, proud literary and administrative history. The Kingdom of Naples isn't some medieval nonentity – it lasted right up to the Risorgimento, and didn't really join ‘Italy’ until 1861. Neapolitan is no more a dialect than the Florentine dialect which has been enshrined (arbitrarily) as standard Italian. (At unification, by the way, the proportion of Italians who spoke ‘Italian’ has been estimated at no more than 2.5 percent.)

I put ‘dialogue’ in inverted commas before because the words ‘language’ and ‘dialect’ do not have any scientific meaning in linguistics, and the decision to call something a dialect is, in the end, a sociopolitical one. We see in this book that people speak ‘pure Italian’, ‘good Italian’, but ‘rough dialect’, ‘the thickest dialect’; Neapolitan is what they use for shouting, swearing, insulting, getting excited. Lenù's boyfriend frustrates her because ‘he never abandoned dialect, and in dialect it was hard to discuss the corruption of earthly justice’ and other high-flown intellectual topics; when he falls out with her (though this is actually at the start of the second book, not this one), it's specifically because ‘he heard scarcely any dialect in [Lenù's] voice, he noted the long sentence, the subjunctives, and he lost his temper’. Even the toastmaster at Lila's wedding is originally chosen on the grounds that he ‘had married a Florentine woman and had taken on the local accent’.

Of course, people really do look down on minority languages, they really are associated with poor education and low social status, and to that extent Ferrante is reflecting the reality of the situation. (In Naples as everywhere else – my wife was always told off at school in Edinburgh if she ever used ‘heid’ for ‘head’ or ‘ken’ for ‘know’.) And yet so much of the novel is about overturning preconceptions about Lenù's friends and neighbours, about restoring some respect to the lives of the working class in this neighbourhood; the novel aims to give a voice to a community that a lot of people do not hear from or understand. While this is often powerfully done, the book itself, on a sociolinguistic level, is profoundly conservative. Something about this friction sat uneasily with me and modulated the way I was reacting to the story.

News that RAI and HBO are producing a TV series of these books raises my hopes that a screen version will – perversely – foreground the language issue in a way that the literary version doesn't quite. Since it's being made in Italian, it's hard to imagine that the producers could duck the issue of using Neapolitan in the way that Ferrante can duck it in text – as a regional language, its use in oral contexts like film and music (’O sole mio, most famously) is, I suppose, more acceptable than in print. I get a sense of how Lila and Antonio and the Solaras sound – but it's distant, even allowing for the fact that I'm reading in translation. Maybe, on screen, I'll feel like I'm finally hearing their voices.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,864 followers
April 20, 2015
My Brilliant Friend, the first in Elena Ferrante’s quartet about best friends from a Naples ghetto, is a novel about power: who holds it, how it is won and lost, and what happens when power shifts occur. It is a story of violence: domestic and cultural, physical and emotional. All this, in a novel about two young girls exploring friendship and adolescence in post-war southern Italy.

Elena Greco and Lila Cerrullo are daughters of working class families, growing up in a crowded, poor, electrifying neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples in the mid-1950s. Elena recounts their adolescence from the remove of middle age, stating:
I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence. ... 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.

Parents beat their children, brothers beat their sisters, husbands beat their wives, and the wealthy Solara brothers keep iron rods in the boot of their sports car, so handy for street fights.

But Elena and Lila are part of a blossoming generation, one that—like the city of Naples itself—is rising out of the traditions of violence and oppression that go hand in hand with poverty into something brighter. Or so it appears at the beginning. By the end of this first installment of Ferrante’s epic Neapolitan series, it seems Fate lifts up one of these young women while holding the other hostage to her culture.

Lila is a force that defies definition. A scrawny child, she is like an orphan in a Victorian melodrama: all skin and bones, street smarts and fearlessness. The neighborhood and its residents—from her family, her schoolmates and teachers to the boys who are enchanted by the flare of her intelligence and her eventual swan-like beauty—are blank slates upon which Lila mercilessly etches her vision, her truth.

And yet, such promise in a young girl with a sparkling intellect is thwarted by her own ambition. Money is what Lila seeks to yank her from the doom of the women around her: marriage and children before they are twenty, followed by decades of drudgery, their beauty a brief flame snuffed out by duty, submission, ignorance. Lila’s childhood dream of becoming a famous novelist is replaced by the more practical plans of starting a luxury shoe business with her troubled older brother, Rino. But even that scheme is pounded out of possibility by their cobbler father, until one of Lila’s suitors steps in with salvation. Ironically, it is Lila’s beauty that offers her the kind of power she can’t reach even with her preternatural intelligence.
...something had begun to emanate from Lila's mobile body that males sensed, an energy that dazed them, like the swelling sound of beauty arriving. The music had to stop before they returned to themselves, with uncertain smiles and extravagant applause.

The tension of female friendship has rarely been so sharply and tenderly displayed in literature. Elena is objective neither with herself nor with Lila, and the push-pull of loathing and love is keenly felt. From the moment Lila drops Elena’s beloved doll into a hole, your sympathies are torn between these two girls, one so cruel and strong and vulnerable, the other naïve and graceless. Elena follows in Lila’s wake, helpless against Lila’s fierce charisma. Although it is Elena who is granted the opportunity to pursue an education beyond middle school, it is Lila who directs her learning. Lila quizzes her, mocks her, competes with her. It is Lila who learns her Latin declensions first, and best. If Elena studies Greek, Lila checks out the available dictionaries from the library. By high school, Elena finds herself formulating her thoughts and arguments as Lila would, using her diction. Elena moves forward in guilt mixed with a sense of triumph—it is she who is offered the education, despite knowing the Lila is her intellectual superior.

Ferrante’s writing is stripped to the bone, but the marrow within is so rich and satisfying. This world of post-war Naples is vivid and visceral, every line colored in with careful detail. Elena returns from several weeks of summer holiday to find
...the sun had made me shining blonde, but my face, my arms, my legs were as if painted with dark gold. As long as I had been immersed in the colors of Ischia, amid sunburned faces, my transformation had seemed suitable; now, restored to the context of the neighborhood, where every face, every street had a sick pallor, it seemed to me excessive, anomalous.

The family dynamics (and there is a helpful Index of Characters at the beginning) are free-ranging and messy, feeding directly into the sea of village life—secrets are on full display, feuds are fast and furious, and allegiances change as peace is brokered, then broken. These characters will consume your heart.

My Brilliant Friend ends with Lila seeming to give into the inevitable: marriage at the age of sixteen. But recall that this is a story of power. And this story has only just begun.

Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,221 followers
November 25, 2018
Posted at Heradas

What you should know:
The book is fantastic, and I couldn’t help but absorb it in just a few days. I feel like it really got at the core of human insecurity, gender and income inequality, female friendships, and our hierarchy of needs. Somehow it’s also a page-turner and an engaging story. It blows my mind that all of those things are possible in one short novel. I guarantee that it’ll get under your skin and soak in.

Ferrante vs. Knausgaard:
Even though I’ve only read this first novel in the sequence, it’s hard for me to resist the urge to compare Ferrante’s Neapolitan series to Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

Both series are: multi-volume, non-English, first person page-turner novels spanning several decades of their character’s lives, first published in English in 2012, with subsequent volumes appearing annually. They both feature straightforward, simple prose, detailing the ins and outs of their characters’ lives, and are deeply, sometimes disturbingly honest in tone. They both tackle a lot of the same themes, but from inside different experiences. If you enjoyed one, I’d highly recommend the other. Especially if you're a guy who enjoyed Knausgaard, you owe it to yourself to read something similar, but from a female perspective. Ferrante’s writing really put me inside that experience in an empathic way.

They are also vastly different from one another: The Neapolitan Novels are fictitious, set in Italy, viscerally violent, told in a mostly linear, chronological order, feature short chapters, supposedly gained a lot in translation, are written pseudonymously, and have a tight focus on the friendship between two female characters over the years.

My Struggle is wildly non-linear, purportedly autobiographical, set mostly in Norway, meandering, has no chapters whatsoever, steeped in nostalgia, and is tightly focused on Knausgaard's view of his general failings as a man, before, after, and during his journey toward becoming a writer.

For more on the similarities between the two works, I’d suggest Joshua Rathman’s terrific essay for The New Yorker: Knausgaard or Ferrante?
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
258 reviews932 followers
December 7, 2018

I had a friend, I still have, albeit, with time our paths diverged a bit, alas ! From early childhood till our twenties we were inseparable like two budgerigars. We were alike, yet different. We were alike because of youth but we differed about our expectations. While I daydreamed she had her feet firmly fixed on the ground. She was good at science while I always preferred humanities. She was pretty, easy-mannered girl, no wonder she was popular with the boys. But it was never any problem to me because I had every boy I wanted. I had David Copperfield and Athos, Meaulnes and Mr Darcy, Hamlet and Snufkin. Sounds stupid, I know. Anyway, being shy and introvert by nature I was impressed by her go-getting energy, I admired her aptitude for learning. We attended to the same primary school, then secondary to finally get together into university. I remember our conversations, dreams, confessions. Though time ruthlessly verified some of our youthful desires and unworldly ideas I still consider these years being extraordinary time in my life.

Why do I write this ? Because of Elena Ferrante. Her name seems to be all the rage amongst my friends lately. Completely deservedly, I think. My brilliant friend is a first volume of series and centers around two young girls, Lila and Elena, and their not always easy friendship. One day Lila, now in her sixties, disappears without a trace. With all her things, books, clothes, photos. Nothing’s left as if Lila wanted to vanish off the face of the earth. This an unaccountable behaviour serves for pretext for Elena to tell us their story.

So, let's move then over forty years back to the peripheral parts of Naples, to the fifties of the last century. Girls grow up here surrounded by poverty and violence, falsely understood pride and macho behaviors of their fathers and brothers. They make plans for the future how to earn enough money to break out of embrace of misery, ignorance and oppression. Their relation is uncanny medley of admiration, envy and rivalry.

Girls are like fire and water. Elena is polite, dutiful and well-behaved meanwhile Lila is impulsive and rebellious. Although they are friends through thick and thin they do not cease to compete with each other. It is pull and push relationship, marked with the ups and downs, full of resentments and mutual fascination. My brilliant friend is a record of friendship and adolescence but also meticulous description of the world which is about to change.

Maybe this novel is not especially innovative but Ferrante has a keen eye. Maybe the name of the narrator is not quite accidental. Maybe Ferrante just writes about herself and performs a personal exorcisms. Anyway, her observations are acutely accurate and, needless to say, I’m eagerly waiting to know subsequent choices, joys and failures of Lila and Elena.
Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews187 followers
February 6, 2021
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is the first of four novels set in Naples charting the lives of Elena Greco and her best friend Lila Curello.
The book opens, present day, as Elena, a woman in her sixties, gets a desperate call from Lila’s son Rino. His mother has disappeared, can Elena help?
She can’t, but the worrying phone call stirs up memories, and Elena eventually decides to write down the details of her relationship with her oldest friend.
We return to the 1950’s when the girls are children.
Elena is sensible, clever and bookish - continuously buffeted by uncertainties of youth. One of the main constants in her life is her love for her childhood friend Lila ‘ ........that terrible, dazzling girl’
Lila, without realising it, is a leader - she’s fearless, singleminded and effortlessly bright. She’s also careless in her affections, unheeding of the opinion of others and dangerously spontaneous.
Elena’s life revolves around Lila. She basks in the warmth of the relationship when things go well and is awash in self pity when they don’t. Lila is mostly unaware.
Lila is complicated though ......... at a young age, she becomes aware of a feeling she gets which she calls ‘dissolving margins’ in which the outlines of things around her seem to her blur and disintegrate, allowing her to see horror and pain below the surface ie a bit like a panic attack or nausea - a hidden fragility.
We follow the girls through the years as they embark on ill advised adventures, usually at the behest of Lila. We experience school and their shared thirst for knowledge. We look on as they battle with families, make and break friendships, fight off and seek suitors, experience the awful, queasy feelings of first love and try to figure out what the uncertain future will bring.
The atmosphere of their neighbourhood is captured well ........ bustling streets, large families crammed into tenements, shouts and washing trailing from tiny balconies, dark tunnels and steep steps. An impoverished neighbourhood of tradespeople scraping by, barely able to support their families. Things are often tense and volatile and there’s a constant sense of simmering anger and frustration. Arguments are quick, fiery and passionate. The threat of violence is never far away with the occasional glint of a gun or flash of a knife.
I wasn’t sure at first how I would get on with this novel. I’m not normally a big fan of ‘coming of age’ stories and at first I found the rhythm of the writing took me a little while to get into (maybe a translation issue - probably just me though!) but I soon became invested in the lives of Elena and Lila and their ever shifting relationship.
My Brilliant Friend is a perceptive and involving read and I’m intrigued to see where the entwined lives of the friends take them next.
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
633 reviews349 followers
July 21, 2015
A not so satisfying read for me. By many other accounts, a great book and writer. The first part of a trilogy beginning with childhood girlfriends who, come to find out, don’t get past the age of 16 in this first installment. And therein lies my problem with it. I wanted it to move into their adult years and become more interesting and relevant to me personally. I should state that I rarely enjoy reading about childhood from the child’s perspective for an entire book. For the duration, it read like the early pages of a novel you’re trying to get through so you can get to the main storyline. Half way in and beyond, I’m still reading about translating latin and struggling with studying and class exams along with the onset of puberty and its challenges. Reflections of poor children growing up in tough surroundings during a six year period of time. Then it ends abruptly, like part I of a big novel with no part II. I can say that if I was willing to read the second book I might enjoy it as it was just getting interesting. Not within my personal interest radar. But it looks like I’m in the minority.
Profile Image for Rinda Elwakil .
501 reviews4,561 followers
May 10, 2019

تبدأ الرواية بمكالمة هاتفية تتلقاها"إيلينا" من ابن صديقة طفولتها "ليلا" يسألها إن كانت أمه عندها، تنفي رؤيتها وتبدأ في طرح استنتاجات عن مكانها لتعرف أن الولد المكترث مدفوعا بالواجب لا المحبة بحث أمرها جميعًا ولم يجد الأم المختفية، يداهمها خاطر مزعج عن رغبة قديمة لصديقتها في الاختفاء كليًا، ليس عن طريق انهاء حباتها ولا تغيير هويتها، بل رغبة في الاختفاء التام كأنما لم توجد في العالم يومًا، تختفي ولا تترك وراءها شعرة واحدة ولا تذكار ولا اي شئ يتأكد منه أحد أنها لم تكن حلمًا.

سألت الشاب إن كانت أمه قد تركت أي شئ خلفها، أي شئ يدل أنها عاشت هنا يومًا وجاء صوت الابن المذعور يجيب بالنفي، أن صورها معه حتى اختفت تمامًا، ليس لها أثر..

أنهت إيلينا المكالمة وأحضرت مفكرة وقلمًا وبدأت غاضبة محنقة تقاوم رغبة صديقتها في الاختفاء الكلي بدون أي أثر بعدما وصلا لسن السادسة والستين، وبدأت في قص كل ما تذكره عنها، عن ليلا..صديقتها المذهلة.

هل تعرف هذا النوع من العلاقات الذي يتبخر أحد أفراده في ظل الآخر؟ خاصة لو كان طرفي المعادلة فتيات؟

فتاة جميلة مجتهدة حسنة الخلق، وصديقة حادة الطباع بذيئة اللسان شريرة ذات قوة كاسحة وألق وتوهج يغشي كل شئ حتى تختفي صديقتها في ظلها ولا يلاحظها أي حد، ستحتار كثيرًا في فهم العلاقة بينهما، هل تعشقها أم تكرهها؟ كيف تؤدي بنا رغبتنا الفطرية في الحصول على قبول وموافقة من حولنا واهتمامهم إلى طرق بعيدة نفقد فيها أنفسنا، أو ربما نعيد اكتشافها من جديد.

قادني الفضول للبحث عن الكاتبة، إيلينا فيرانتي، لأعرف أنها لغز لا يقل شبهًا عن بطلة روايتها

كاتبة رباعية نابولي التي صنفت من أجمل الروايات المعاصرة وصنفت كاتبها من أكثر الشخصيات تأثيرًا عام صدورها مجهولة، لا يعرف أحد عنها سوى الناشر، تكتب تحت اسم أنثي ولا يعرف أحد إن كانت امرأة ام رجل

شغل الأمر الرأي العام لفترة طويلة دفعتهم لعمل لجان تحليلية لدراسة الرباعية لاستنتاج إن كانت لقلم واحد أم مجموعة من الكتاب، وعندما قررو أنها لقلم واحد شرعوا في تخمين من هي الكاتبة حتى أضطرهم الأمر لاختراق حسابات بنكية لكاتبة محتملة وجدوا أنها تلقت مبالغ كبيرة في نفس فترة لنتشار الرواية ليخرج الناشر منددًا بتلك المهازل وتبعث الكاتبة رسالة صوتية تذيع لتقول أنها حررت كلماتها ولا يجب أن تتبعها لكل مكان

أدين لهذه الرواية بشفائي من سدة قراءة عانيت منها على مدار العام، أعادتني للجلوس على رواية متجاهلة ما حولي، اقرأها حتى أنام وأصحو متشوقة لاستكمالها.

علامة كاملة بلا تردد
أجمل قراءات العام، إيلينا فيرانتي..شكرًا على السحر أيتها الشيطانة المذهلة.

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