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
    Genre: Novels

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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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Reader Reviews

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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.

Susan J. (Twain Harte, CA)

A Complicated Friendship
I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to the rest of the trilogy. I couldn't help but contrast the setting of working class Naples with my own coming of age in the 50s in suburban California; I suspect that these days the images wouldn't be as far apart. Even though I look forward to what comes next in the story, it is the two main characters who interest me the most, and I have so many questions about what lies ahead for Lenu and Lila. Will they continue to grow apart? Will they be disappointed with the choices they have made?
Will they continue to have a strong influence in each others lives?

Nan G. (Mazomanie, WI)

Rich, Complicated Storytelling
Elena Ferrante's novel My Brilliant Friend (the first in a trilogy) is not an easy, throw in the bag book for the beach. Instead, it should be savored under the shade of an old tree over days when you won't be disturbed. It is a rich story with a host of characters, all of whom play a part in the sometimes complicated narrative of a friendship between two women that begins in the 1950's just outside Naples.

Unlike some books translated from the writer's native language, this one flows easily, leaving the reader immersed in a time and place unfamiliar to most American readers. In some ways it reminded me of the "big" novels of Edna Ferber (Giant) or Anton Mryer (The Last Convertible)---leaving me anxious to read more.

Norma R. (Secaucus, NJ)

My Brilliant Friend
Very good "period" piece set in the outskirts of Naples in the late 1950's. It is a coming of age story that chronicles the lives of children growing up on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950's. The plot focuses on several families in a small sheltered neighborhood. I enjoyed this book because it was realistic. At first I expected a saccharin story of a beautiful Italian small town. But the book addresses multiple serious issues. Characters struggle with depression, poverty, and domestic violence. Back of book says this is the first of a trilogy, looking forward to Part 2.

Priscilla M. (Houston, TX)

A Mini-Series in the Making
My Brilliant Friend has all the makings of a TV mini-series. In the first installment of a trilogy, Elena Ferrante skillfully involves the reader in life in a neighborhood in Naples, Italy in the 1950's. The inhabitants are poor and hold, for the most part, menial jobs, but their lives are rich in passions, friendships, divided loyalties,unrequited loves, and unrealized dreams.
The main character, Lena, and her best friend and chief competitor, Lila, grow up sharing dolls, dreams, fears, and family complications. The author brings the reader into their lives with a cast of characters that needs a family tree to keep everyone sorted out so that the various feuds and alliances are properly understood. That was probably my chief complaint with the story. I had to constantly refer to said family tree to keep all the alliances clear in my head as I read. This was an engrossing tale, and I wasn't ready to let go of the characters when the story ended.

Eileen F. (Ridgefield, WA)

Two friends
A great novel, that starts with a phone call from Lila's son to Elena. He wanted to know where his mother was. The story, then follows Lila and Elena through their teens, in a poor neighborhood in Naples. It showcases their desire to learn. It is an emotional ride, with at times some humor. The down side was the multitude of characters, that I had to reference frequently in the front of the book. I am looking forward to reading the future book in the trilogy, because if need to know where Lila is.

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Elena Ferrante Author Biography

Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of The Days of Abandonment (Europa, 2005), Troubling Love (Europa, 2007), and The Lost Daughter (Europa, 2009). Her Neapolitan novels include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and the foruth and final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child.

Link to Elena Ferrante's Website

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