Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Brilliant Friend

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."


  1. My reaction was very similar - so much darker than I was expecting! After reading the first book early last spring, I waited several months before continuing on to books 2 and 3, which I read back-to-back. I would have picked up the 4th right away, but it will not be released until September. Both 2 and 3 are stronger than the first book, I think... especially book 2.

  2. Like you, I'm interested to read the sequels but wanted to wait a bit. It's good to hear that books 2 and 3 are stronger -- I'll be more motivated to seek them out.

  3. I have also heard a lot of good things about these books.

    Dark books sometimes bother me but I still get a lot out of them.

    I agree with you, romanticizing the past is more often then not, unrealistic.

  4. I've been hearing about her trilogy but realize the novels were bleak and dark. I'm still curious about them.

  5. I think the covers of this trilogy kind of do it a disservice - they seem to hint at light and frothy, which clearly this one was not.