Book Reviews

My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One: 1 by Elena Ferrante

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List Price: £12.99


Paperback: 336 Pages.

Published: 11 October 2012 by Europa Editions

Edition: Original

ISBN: 9781609450786

EAN: 9781609450786

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.


3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

Just didn't engage me

This is a good book, I am glad I read it, but I am not entirely sure that I really enjoyed it although it is difficult to work out exactly why. It is a novel set in a poor, working class area of Naples in the 1950s. There is a prologue set in the present day and the action then reverts back to the childhood of the two women/girls Elena and Lila. Issues raised in the prologue are never resolved in the rest of the book and I have to assume that this will be an overarching story arc for the series - it is a bit irritating though.

The story addresses issues of poverty, class, expectations and politics and is set quite firmly in post-war Italy. The evocation of the era is excellently done and the author understands well the challenges of growing up and friendship. Nothing much happens in the book and yet everything that does will shape the lives of these two forever. We watch them face challenges and difficulties and slowly grow apart as they develop different visions of what they can be. I assume that future books in the series will depict the maturing of the friends and how they handle family and public expectations.

I liked a lot of this book. I thought some of it was very clever such as the realisation of what the title actually means. I did, however, find it quite hard going. The prose and style is not difficult but it didn't flow for me - some of this is because it is all pitched at the same level with few ups and downs, and there was no humour or lighter moments in the book at all. I am glad I read it. I can see that it is a good book with some important things to say but in the end it didn't engage me and I don't care enough to carry on reading the series.

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