A modern masterpiece 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. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.
My friend, Veronica, @onwednesdaysweread_, recommended My Brilliant Friend last year and I was excited to read it. There have been very few translated books I’ve had the opportunity of reading, but I always find I enjoy the experience immensely. It’s interesting to get a firsthand account of life in another country, in another time. This was exactly what My Brilliant Friend felt like. It was a beautifully written tale of friendship, community, and the ups and downs of many lives. I found it to be more of a comfort read than I was expecting.
I especially loved how this book started – it had an exceptional hook that made me want to continue the series. However, my excitement over the beginning of the book did slightly taper off as I listened to more of this story on audio. Please don’t mistake this for dislike of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of the characters over the course of the story. It involved a variety of introspective moments I appreciated greatly, as well as accurate insight into the friendships females often form in their adolescent years. It captured the competition young women experience, and the near-constant jealousy and one-upping that happens before we finally learn to embrace who we are later in life. My only hang-up was that sometimes the story felt quite repetitive and slow.
Ultimately, I appreciated the humanity of the characters and that is precisely what will keep me coming back for Book 2. There’s something beautiful about being able to follow characters through numerous years. They become more than two-dimensional words on a page and evolve into friends.
Rating: 3 stars