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.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
A superbly perceptive, nuanced, profound portrait of friendship between two young women in Naples in the 1950s. Think of it as like one of those classic neo realist black and white films by Roberto Rossellini or Vittorio de Sica.
Elena and Lila grow up together. But only one of them stays at school to continue her studies, while the other, prettier and ostensibly brighter girl goes to work in the family business making shoes with her brother Rino, a young man with a troubling intensity.
While Elena studies hard, Lila is courted by handsome brothers from a Camorra family, playing a dangerous game of defiance in a tight knit community. As the two girls reach womanhood, their friendship shifts its balance as they navigate their destiny faced with poverty, politics, and unspoken rules.
Rich in the detail of everyday life in a poor but proud neighbourhood, unsentimental, intimate, this is a truly memorable novel and the very welcome first instalment in a trilogy. Part two will be out in late September.
About the Author
Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of three other novels: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love and The Lost Daughter. She is one of Italy's most acclaimed authors. Ann Goldstein has translated Elena Ferrante's earlier novels. She is an editor at the New Yorker and a recipient of the PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award.
'Gutsy and compulsively readable...One of the more nuanced portraits of feminine friendship in recent memory...Ferrante wisely balances her memoir-like emotional authenticity with a wry sociological understanding of a society on the verge of dramatic change.' Vogue (US) 'Everyone should read anything with [Elena Ferrante's] name on it.' Boston Globe 'Beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein...[Ferrante] writes with a ferocious, intimate urgency.' San Francisco Chronicle 'Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader...[A] beautiful and delicate tale of confluence and reversal.' -- James Wood New Yorker 'Cinematic in the density of its detail.' Times Literary Supplement 'Elena Ferrante will blow you away.' Alice Sebold 'Ferrante's fictions are fierce, unsentimental glimpses at the way a woman is constantly under threat, her identity submerged in marriage, eclipsed by motherhood, mythologised by desire. Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you'll have some idea of how explosive these works are...In My Brilliant Friend, the reclusive Ferrante does something hard but true. It goes back to the before and by looking at it clearly, with humour and warmth and rage, loves it.' Weekend Australian 'A superbly perceptive, nuanced, profound portrait of friendship between two young women in Naples in the 1950s...Rich in the detail of everyday life in a poor but proud neighbourhood, unsentimental, intimate, this is a truly memorable novel.' -- Booktopia Buzz 'One of the aspects I loved most about My Brilliant Friend was Ferrante's biting portrayal of a friendship (Elena and Lina are the most brilliant example of 'frenemies'). The two girls are competitive, caring, jealous, needy; small slights can cause true suffering, while careless gestures of affection-great happiness. Such moments ring with familiarity, but...Ferrante represents this commonality in a way I'd never encountered before. Her novel is clean, pared back and...so close to the bone you can feel your teeth grinding. The result is shockingly good.' -- Readings 'Ferrante's prose is deeply passionate and detailed, crafting a story of a relationship in which suffering and joy go hand-in-hand...We may never want to be 16 again, but to go back, just for a few hours, is breathtaking. At times, you will be forced to put the book down, close your eyes, and feel the past rushing in.' Time Out Melbourne 'Ferrante bewitches with her tiny, intricately drawn world...My Brilliant Friend journeys fearlessly into some of that murkier psychological territory, where questions of individual identity are inextricable from circumstance and the ever-changing identities of others.' Melbourne Review 'My Brilliant Friend is an engaging read, well translated from Italian, giving a vivid account of life in a poor suburb of Naples in the late 1950s...There is a lot more to find out about this interesting pair. My hope is the next book is just as entertaining.' Otago Daily Times 'The first two Neapolitan novels [My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name]...move far from contrivance, logic or respectability to ask uncomfortable questions about how we live, how we love, how we singe an existence in a deeply flawed world that expects pretty acquiescence from its women. In all their beauty, their ugliness, their devotion and deceit, these girls enchant and repulse, like life, like our very selves.' Sydney Morning Herald 'If you haven't read Elena Ferrante, it's like not having read Flaubert in 1856...Incontrovertibly brilliant.' Anne Meadows, editor of Granta, on Monocle Radio
Series: The Neapolitan Novels
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 24th July 2013
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.4 x 2.4
Weight (kg): 0.44