“My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante, one Italy’s most acclaimed writers, is the first book of a the “L’amica geniale” or “The Neapolitan Novels” series. This is a book about two girls, becoming friends and walking from childhood to adolescence, in a poor neighborhood in the outskirts of Naples.The two girls, Lila and Lenou, growing up in those tough streets, get into an astounding bond day by day. The come to face their fears and test their boundaries together, knowing that they can rely on each other.
The book starts with an incident decades after the original story. Lila has gone missing and Lenou starts writing down their memories, trying to figure out what happened. Lenou’s memories is what is written in this book, as it is all narrated by her. The reader can see how much Lenou thinks of her friend. She is fascinated by Lila in many ways. As they grow more and more familiar with each other, Lenou discovers that Lila is not only tough and mean sometimes, but she is also incredibly intelligent, brilliant! Lila’s parents are too poor to offer her much or even education after some point, but does not stop her from trying to feel worthy of her friend and her knowledge.
Their first go through that actually makes their friendship what it is, is a dare event. This one event, incorporates and projects the whole book, or at least gives a very good hint of what was Naples in the early 50s and what to expect going through the next chapter. The two girls, after realizing that their dolls are not to be found, they go and claim them from the most feared and hated man in the whole neighborhood, the one that pulls all the strings. From that point onward, the reader knows that those girls are not going to play safe so easily and refuse their dreams and needs.
Ferrante touches so many fields with this book:
The differences between the poor and the rich, and the feelings that devastate a young girl realizing how far one world is from the other.
The legacy of fascism that is still around the corner, so early after world war II, underpinned by true stories of followers, neutrals and opposers, and how that affected the neighborhood.
The things one would or would not do in order to impress their friends, trying to think and apply what would their friend do in a similar situation, and what a mimic creature man is at any given chance. Man’s need for approval would lead to uncomfortable or wining situation, depending on the case.
The advantage of education on those difficult times and how far from your surroundings it can make you feel.
Adolescence and all that it includes. From getting to know of one’s body to awkwardness, wanting for more, feeling unworthy or low, fear of the future and present and many other things.
Her touch is like a feather. A very sensitive touch, without becoming boring or difficult or tiring. The narration is plain and strict to the rules the author follows. The characters are those expected to be from the very first acquaintance, not changing a bit but to reveal what was really hidden underneath already indicated one way or another. Ferrante’s prose is ravishing! It captures the reader’s attentions to the very end. The small chapters along with the story and the prose, make it a real page turner and a hook. Surely makes the reader to long for the next in line or buy them online in the middle of the night, next day delivery, not wanting to wait for the stores to open.
For those unaware, Ferrante is a pen name, not a real one. Only the author and the trusted editor knows who is behind this marvelous pen. Many have been written trying to resolve this quiz and reveal the real person. No matter the case, this is a pen name doing a really great job, so leave them in peace and creativity.