My Brilliant Friend: Book summary and reviews of My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend

By Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2012,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

From one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila, set in a vibrant and colorful modern-day Naples. Ferrante's inimitable style lends itself perfectly to this penetrating portrait of two marvelous women. Here, too, is the story of an entire nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets, Elena and Lila learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country undergoing momentous change. The first in a trilogy, My Brilliant Friend introduces readers to two unforgettable protagonists and to the famed and flawed beauty of modern Naples.

Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With this novel, already a bestseller in Europe, she proves herself to be one of Italy's great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Stunning…The raging, torrential voice of the author is something rare." - The New York Times

"Ferrante's prose is stunningly candid, direct and unforgettable." - Publishers Weekly

"Elena Ferrante will blow you away." - Alice Sebold

"[The Days of Abandonment & Troubling Love] are tour de forces…They both confirm Ferrante's reputation as one of Italy's best contemporary novelists." - The Seattle Times

"This piercing novel [The Lost Daughter] is not so easily dislodged from the memory." - The Boston Globe

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Shirley F. (Franksville, WI)
What did I miss???
The prologue grabbed my attention and I looked forward to unraveling the mystery of Lila's disappearance. The characters were well developed, the plot a little thin, the setting and the rhythm of the neighborhood were beautifully described (although not aesthetically beautiful). So what did I miss? In the prologue, Lenu tells us that she will relate every memory that she has about Lila but the story falls short by 40 years and by the end, the reader has no more knowledge of why Lila disappeared than her son Rino has at the beginning. The book was difficult to get through with little dialogue and many characters (thank goodness for the Character Index at the beginning), but the colorful description of life in Italy in the 50's kept me going (being a true Italophile). However, I felt cheated because the book was not a stand alone novel and one must rad the next 2 books in the trilogy to find out the reason for the prologue issues.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Martha P. (Issaquah, WA)
Italian masterpiece
I am so glad that this is the first in a trilogy by Elena Ferrante. Her writing and the translation are superb. The characters are so believable you feel like you are reading a memoir instead of a novel. Naples in the 60's, family feuds, friendships that wax and wane, machismo, coming of age, and intellectualism---Ferrante blends it all effortlessly and makes you feel that you are there in the backseat of the Giardinetta with Lila and Elena sharing the experience. Very much looking forward to book number two in this trilogy.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Monica G. (San Antonio, TX)
It's a Difficult Read
Let me start by saying that "My Brilliant Friend" is a difficult read but as a lover of all things Italian, I pushed through it. I was finally rewarded with a good story of three life-long friends, and I say three because Naples is a very large part of the the girls' relationship.

Family and friends also inundate the story. Lots of family and friends! There are so many characters to keep up with, the author kindly provides us with an "index of characters" that you WILL need to keep up with them all.

It's a slow start and you have to push yourself past the beginning of the book to get to the point where you're too invested to quit reading but I think, considering that this is the beginning of a trilogy, that the story will not only get better, but will continue to flesh out the most important characters, especially, Elena and Lila, whom we follow from their 8th year of age to their 16th year, which is why I only graded it as "average".

I don't think this type of book is for everyone. It's a good story but it's a bit convoluted and it's not what I would call a "relaxing" read. I plan on reading the next two installments but I have to say it's dependent upon how quickly they are published because I usually re-read the previous books to get myself back into the story and I'm honestly not sure I would re-read this book.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Hazel R. (Westwood, MA)
First in a Trilogy, but Doesn't Stand Alone
The prologue of this book will grab you, but you will not understand what has happened any more at the end of the book, as you will in the beginning. There is a lot of character development and the protagonists are quite idiosyncratic, but it was too much of the same thing, and I doubt I will plow through 2 more books to find out more about what was happening in the prologue. A read-alike that I would give a much higher rating to would be the Big Stone Gap books.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Deborah D. (Old Forge, NY)
Slow going
The story of two close friends and their choices and opportunities held my interest for too short a time. Although the premise was interesting I found it drawn out and repetitive.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Carolyn S. (Decatur, GA)
My Brilliant Friend
This ia a story of two young friends set in Naples in the 50's. The story was a little gritty and the characters were not fleshed out enough to keep them separate. It was difficult to get through the book because there was not a strong plot.

...10 more reader reviews

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Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. Though one of Italy's most important and acclaimed contemporary authors, she has successfully shunned public attention and kept her whereabouts and her true identity concealed.

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