MY BRILLIANT FRIEND and THE STORY OF A NEW NAME by Elena Ferrante – a twofer review!

Review published on February 23, 2017.

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND
Elena Ferrante
Europa Editions Sep 2012
ISBN 9781609450786
Neapolitan Quartet, Book 1.

This is the story of two girls in a poor, rough neighbourhood outside Naples, Italy. Growing up on tough often violent streets, the girls learn to rely on each other but they are also often at odds or in competition, as young girls will naturally be. The author does an amazing job of describing this lifelong and complicated but touching relationship between two very different women.  In this coming-of-age story, Ferrante captures the angst and longing of adolescence and the fraught relationships that are complicated by circumstance and family interactions in small town Europe. This is definitely not chick lit, it is a rich literary work and it is just the beginning of the saga of Lila and Elena. There are three more books in the series which will carry on into the rest of their lives.

These great Italian novels have taken the book industry by storm, everyone is talking about them. I liked this book a lot and will definitely carry on with the series. It is quite character driven and doesn’t have much plot except for the intrigue within the lives of the people in the town. The author masterfully drew me in and I appreciated her intensely personal, yet unsentimental, portrait of a friendship and the fascinating portrayal of Italy in the 50s. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the author, who has not revealed herself publicly.

Joanne Booy 4/4

 

THE STORY OF A NEW NAME
Elena Ferrante
Europa Editions Sep 2013
ISBN 9781609451349
Neapolitan Quartet, Book 2.

This is the second in the Neapolitan series, a rich and intimate portrait of a female friendship in a poor neighbourhood in Naples. The novel opens with Lina (Lila) now Signora Carracci, a married woman albeit to a man she doesn’t love and doesn’t respect. Her new life is explored largely through the eyes of and in the context of her relationship with her friend Elena (Lenu).

The story carries on seamlessly from My Brilliant Friend, again drawing the reader into that time and place in small town Italy. For the women in these novels, life is a conundrum of attachment and detachment and there are very few likeable characters in these books at all, especially among the men. Though the author’s unusual voice is emotionally compelling, it is difficult to continue to enjoy reading about so much strife and unhappiness. It’s really such an odd reading experience, with major twists and turns that feel understated, and long mental meanderings about things that we wouldn’t give a second thought to. I may take a break before reading number three (of four), but I fully expect to at some point. I have heard from others that the third book is a bit of a slower read.

Joanne Booy 4/4

And check out Joanne’s blog:
https://joannesreadingblog.wordpress.com

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