Tuesday, August 11, 2015
My Brilliant Friend
Posted by JaneGS
I've been hearing good things about Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels so I gave the first one, My Brilliant Friend, a try.
Set in Naples, Italy in the 1950's and 1960's, it is the chronicle of the friendship of two girls as they grow up on the mean streets and battle teachers, parents, lovers, and their own demons.
Elena is the girl who works hard in school and follows the academic path to adulthood--riddled with self-doubt that accentuates her awkwardness, she longs for praise and acceptance. Lila is a very intelligent girl, probably in the genius category, who never has to work hard to be top of the class but leaves school early to work for her father. She is an ugly duckling who makes herself over into a swan, orchestrates a brilliant marriage for herself, and pines for the opportunity to use the brain cells that seem to rust for lack of exercise. She is charismatic but has no channel for her charisma or intelligence.
It was an interesting book to read, but really not what I expected. Much darker, much bleaker, and much sadder. I'm interested in reading the other two books in the trilogy, but I'm not sure when. I need a bit of distance, I think.
Reading books like this make me appreciate how far we women have come since the days that some would like to label "the good old days."