The Neapolitan Novels are a 4-part series of books that took the world by storm in a big way. For a while, it seemed like everyone on the planet was caught in the grips of this incredibly compelling and wildly popular series. A true literary sensation, the series began with My Brilliant Friend, first published in 2012, and continued with The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child.
The series follows the lives of two girls – Elena Greco and Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo – from childhood, through adulthood and into old age. Covering a 50 year time period, it is set in Naples beginning in the 1950s. Given how beloved these books are, there is a lot of excitement about the TV show, which is expected to air later this year (though no official premiere date has been announced yet).
The author of the Neapolitan Novels is a most mysterious figure. “Elena Ferrante” is a pseudonym that the author uses, preferring to keep her true identity a closely guarded secret. She has been famously quoted as saying, “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” She maintains that keeping her anonymity is key to her writing process, and this holds true even during the production of the TV show. Though she has worked on the screenplays for each episode, Ferrante has only communicated with the production team and the director, Saverio Constanzo, via emails.
Early pictures of the TV show have been released by HBO via twitter and on the HBO website. The pictures are stunning (see below) and seem to perfectly capture the feeling and atmosphere of the books.
My Brilliant Friend will be HBO’s first move into foreign language production. Specifically, it will be filmed in the Napolitano dialect in order to stay true to the novels and make sure the portrayal of Naples is as authentic as possible. It will be subtitled in English and also in Italian – as Neapolitan is a very distinct dialect and not easily understood by Italians.
It reportedly took seven months to cast Elena and Lila. This is partly because they needed to find young actresses to play each role at different ages. Not only did they have to find young actors with the talent to play the roles, they had to look enough like each other to believably play the same character. Plus, they had to be able to speak the Napolitano dialect!
An estimated 8 thousand children were seen before the roles were finally cast. Young Elena and Lila will be played by Elisa Genio and Ludovica Nasti. Teenage Elena and Lila will be played by Margherita Mazzucci and Gaia Girace.
My Brilliant Friend will be filmed solely in Italy, however, much of the filming had to be done on a set in Caserta, in the Campania region of Italy. This is due to the 1950s setting, which precluded filming in Naples. When scouting for filming locations, it was decided that Naples has changed so much in the last 50 years that it would be better to film on set. A backlot was built in Caserta so that an entire 1950s Neapolitan neighborhood could be recreated for the show.
Each book in the Neapolitan series will get its own 8 part season, which means the entire series will have 32 episodes. So far only the first season has been ordered, however, given the great anticipation for this series, and the wide popularity of the books, it seems a sure bet that all four seasons will get made, as planned.
If the TV show proves even half as popular as the books, it will be a worldwide sensation. Until the premiere date is announced, we will just have to start re-reading the books.
My Brilliant Friend
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 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.
My Brilliant Friend is a ravishing, wonderfully written novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
The story of Elena and Lila begins in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. The two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else, sometimes to their own detriment, as each discovers more about who she is and suffers or delights in the throes of their intense friendship.
There is a piercing honesty about Ferrante's prose that makes My Brilliant Friend a compulsively readable portrait of two young women, and also the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country.
About the Contributor
Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Senior Content Producer and Editor of The Booktopian Blog. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling
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