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Critics can be wrong
Critics seem to rate this book with five stars, while readers give it a more valid rating of 3.5 stars. Realistic characters at times but unbelievable all too often. The characters become one-dimensional too often. Compare it to the beauty of books like Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" where "good" characters are shown to be evil, "bad" characters are shown to be good. Then look at Lila, Elena, Reno,... who are one - dimensional for 300 pages. This would not be a fair comparison, but it helps me describe my disappointment with how critics seem to be uncritical, at times.
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.
Martha P. (Issaquah, WA)
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.
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.
Hazel R. (Westwood, MA)
First in a Trilogy, but Doesn't Stand Alone
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.
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.
Deborah D. (Old Forge, NY)
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.
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.
Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
Not my style
I have to say this is not a book I would ordinarily read. I kept hoping it would get better, but it just didn't interest me. The way it was written, made it difficult for me to get interested in it; and I didn't understand the lifestyle, which just didn't make sense to me. It also read more like a memoir than a novel.