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My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale #1)

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  114,769 Ratings  ·  12,461 Reviews
The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything 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. They ...more
Paperback, 331 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Europa Editions (first published October 19th 2011)
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Amelia C Because in poor neighborhoods where kids see violence (husbands hitting wives) they go out and act this drama out themselves. And he boys seem to feel…moreBecause in poor neighborhoods where kids see violence (husbands hitting wives) they go out and act this drama out themselves. And he boys seem to feel powerless as they stay trapped in the neighborhood and envy the Solara's. Heck, I was middle class and we used to hurl rocks at the neighbors and sometimes dead fish. Lord of The Flies is required reading for a reason. (-:(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Coni He made money with black market during WWII... Quite common in Italy at the times, not only in Naples; during the war you could't freely buy food, but…moreHe made money with black market during WWII... Quite common in Italy at the times, not only in Naples; during the war you could't freely buy food, but you were allowed to acquire only a fixed and small amount of items that you had on a card. Someones had some secret stash of butter, sugar, dry meat, salt, coffee, probably stolen from the American Army. They sold those to poor people at 10 time the real value. So someone that before WWII was a mere little thief, often after the war become a rich shop or land owner and had a lot of money made on other people suffering. Every little town or neighborhood in Italy had its own black marketer. I believe that Don Achille was one of them, and that is why the people of the district hated him. And probably there was also some kind of affiliation to the camorra and he surely was a loan-shark. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pub-2011
I received this book as a Christmas present from my boss over a year ago. In fact, everyone in the office received a copy – that’s how much our boss wanted us to read it. Before you start wondering what sort of wonderful place I worked at, let me clarify it was a literary agency, so such things were totally commonplace. So despite the terrible cover, and a rather idiotic blurb I knew it would be a fine book.

No review of Ferrante’s book is complete without a mention of how no one knows who Ferran
Sep 13, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-read
I tried. I tried. I tried. For 200 pages I tried to see what it is about this writer that gets such acclaim, but with 130 pages to go, I abandoned it - there are just too many other books in my waiting pile that I want to read.
This book was chosen for book club which is why I persisted so long (I normally stop reading a book pretty quickly if it doesn't engage me).
I didn't develop any concern for the characters, and found it really repetitive - different stage school/same response from parents
Rick Riordan
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have been studying Italian in my free time and so decided to try reading one of the most popular Italian writers of today: Elena Ferrante. There have been many articles about this author's mysterious anonymity. Her real identity is unknown except to her publisher because she wishes to have a normal life. I get that. Still, it only adds to the intrigue, as you can't help but wonder who writes these marvelous books. My Brilliant Friend is not the sort of book I would normally pick up as I prefer ...more
type, edit, delete,

undo delete,

type, edit, delete..

deep breath

start again

type, edit, delete…

make a coffee

type, edit, delete…

pour a drink

type, edit, delete..

desperation sets in

The dog ate my review!


Why, why, why can’t I find any words to say about this book?

The problem is I don’t know what I feel about it. In fact, the book has left me without any feelings, good or bad. It has left me blank. I’m not used to feeling blank after reading.

I read Ferrante’s Th
Glenn Sumi
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: not-usa-can-uk
My Brilliant Friend, a.k.a. My Brilliant New Obsession

Believe all the hype. This is a rich, immersive, deeply satisfying book that, like many great novels, captures a particular time and place with complete authority. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series.

In a dirt poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s, bright working class girls Elena Greco (our narrator) and bestie Lila Cerrullo survive childhood and adolescence, learning how to navigate school, boys, sex and
Lucie Cavaroc
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was ok

The entire time I spent reading this book I asked myself "What is wrong with this book? Why am I having so much trouble getting into it?". It is incredibly slow-paced, but I also believe the Italian-to-English translation must be flawed. Many of the sentences were confusing and even contradictory. The redeeming factor, and the reason I gave it two stars instead of one, was that the Italian atmosphere was strongly prevalent and somewhat enjoyable - I learned what living in Naples in the 50s must
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel has so much violence that it should come with some kind of rating. Seriously, I had no idea it was so dangerous to grow up in Naples.

"I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence."

My Brilliant Friend is the story of two childhood friends, Elena and Lila. It is the first in a series, and I confess that when I started reading it, I did not intend to continue with them — I was just going to read this first one to see what all the fuss over Ferrante was about.

It took me
Jan 31, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1 "sweet Jesus...this is the first of four books" stars !!

First of all a bit of translation

In English we say blahblahblah. In Italian they say blablabla.

Ms. Ferrante separates this book into two sections: Childhood (18 chapters) and Adolescence (62 chapters)

Childhood Ch 1 to 9

Ms. Ferrante writes: blablablablablablablablablab and blablablablabla

Jaidee: God I hope this gets better

Childhood Ch 10-14

Ms. Ferrante writes: blablablablabla and blablablablabla

Jaidee: This is boring me to tears !

Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated, 2016, i-own-it
If I were to describe Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend in one word it would be 'mythic.' The minutiae of Elena and Lila's lives into which Ferrante dives takes on these mythic proportions, pulling the reader along on a tense and frightful story. But at first glance, the story is anything but tense and frightful. It's a story of female friendship, between two lower-class girls in Naples following WWII. Ferrante, with precision and passion, recounts the lives of these girls as anything less th ...more

When did we all start talking about Elena Ferrante, guys? I can’t remember- was it last year? Maybe 2013? I know she’s been writing for far longer than that, but it was definitely only recently that she became A Thing. Whenever it was, we should have been talking about her sooner.

And with different words. Better words. Words whose value hasn’t been sucked out by the marketing blurbs they’ve been a part of, with the same accompanying modifiers (if I never hear “compulsively readable” again that
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italiana

Herbert List. Foto usata per il flano dell'adattamento teatrale in lingua inglese della tetralogia ferrantiana.

Ho l’impressione che Elena Ferrante ami spiazzare il lettore, e da lettore, trovo che essere spiazzato sia una bella sensazione.

All’inizio di questo romanzo c’è un ricco elenco di famiglie e nomi e relazioni: ma non serve, non è necessario, si segue agevolmente il racconto anche senza consultarlo.


Nell’elenco sono compresi molti personaggi femminili e maschili: ma gli uo
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, own-a-copy, reviewed

I had a friend, I still have, albeit, with time our paths diverged a bit, alas ! From early childhood till our twenties we were inseparable like two budgerigars. We were alike, yet different. We were alike because of youth but we differed about our expectations. While I daydreamed she had her feet firmly fixed on the ground. She was good at science while I always preferred humanities. She was pretty, easy-mannered girl, no wonder she was popular with the boys. But it was never any problem to me
Violet wells
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faves, italy, 21st-century
“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” So said Virginia Woolf and this, the forging of identity in relationship, is very much the theme of Elena Ferrante’s compelling novel. Elena, the narrator of the novel, is in first grade when we first meet her. She lives in a violent and impoverished working class district of Naples where kindred spirits or role models are hard to find. Certainly not her mother – “My mother did her best to make me understand that ...more
Julie Christine
My Brilliant Friend, the first in Elena Ferrante’s quartet about best friends from a Naples ghetto, is a novel about power: who holds it, how it is won and lost, and what happens when power shifts occur. It is a story of violence: domestic and cultural, physical and emotional. All this, in a novel about two young girls exploring friendship and adolescence in post-war southern Italy.

Elena Greco and Lila Cerrullo are daughters of working class families, growing up in a crowded, poor, electrifying
I had this book on my radar for so long but I always got distracted by other books (but I think this is the story of 90% of bookworms, so many books so little time. Sigh!) It took me three years to finally read this, and what an adventure this turn out to be.

"There was something unbearable in the things, in the people, in the buildings, in the streets that, only if you reinvented it all, as in a game, became acceptable. The essential, however, was to know how to play, and she and I, only she an
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"The women in my stories are all echoes of real women who, because of their suffering or their combativeness, have very much influenced my imagination: my mother, a childhood girlfriend, acquaintances whose stories I know. In general I combine their experiences with my own and Delia, Amalia, Olga, Leda, Nina, Elena, Lenù are born out of that mix. But the echo that you noticed maybe derives from an oscillation inside the characters that I’ve always worked on. My women are strong, educated, self-a ...more
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
"It was as if, because of an evil spell, the joy or sorrow of one required the sorrow or joy of the other; even our physical aspect, it seemed to me, shared in that swing."

Elena and Lila, a friendship born of necessity – the need to find another human soul that understands us, our longings and sorrows - someone to emulate, someone that drives each of us to become our very best self. These two girls, born into poverty in 1950s Naples, forge a relationship that is both captivating and completely a
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Much has been written about My Brilliant Friend, so I'm not sure what I can add except for a few reactions to what I see as the three main characters:

< Elena -- my heart aches for you. We all know an Elena (and some of us are Elena). The brilliant second fiddle, who is too focused and intertwined with her friend Lila's life to appreciate her own talents, successes and hopes. I want to shake Elena, and to tell her to let go of Lila -- just a bit at least -- to stop hanging on Lila's every word
Oct 06, 2014 marked it as abandoned
Recommends it for: read Atwood instead, if you are looking for books about women "friendships"
Recommended to Tatiana by: critical acclaim
I just don't get the hype. I found the writing (or translation) incredibly choppy and the story overlong, repetitive and incoherent at times.

There must be better writers in Italy than Ferrante.
From the age of two until twelve, I lived in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. During the Industrial Revolution, Merthyr had briefly been the iron capital of the world, but things didn't work out; iron ore became harder to mine, the people running the refining works didn't adopt modern methods quickly enough, the town was too far from the sea. Everything fell apart, and by the 1930s unemployment was running at 80%. When I arrived with my parents in 1960, things had become a little better, but the town was ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
A not so satisfying read for me. By many other accounts, a great book and writer. The first part of a trilogy beginning with childhood girlfriends who, come to find out, don’t get past the age of 16 in this first installment. And therein lies my problem with it. I wanted it to move into their adult years and become more interesting and relevant to me personally. I should state that I rarely enjoy reading about childhood from the child’s perspective for an entire book. For the duration, it read l ...more
Kevin Kelsey
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: _library, read-2018
Posted at Heradas

What you should know:
The book is fantastic, and I couldn’t help but absorb it in just a few days. I feel like it really got at the core of human insecurity, gender and income inequality, female friendships, and our hierarchy of needs. Somehow it’s also a page-turner and an engaging story. It blows my mind that all of those things are possible in one short novel. I guarantee that it’ll get under your skin and soak in.

Ferrante vs. Knausgaard:
Even though I’ve only read this first n
Stephen Durrant
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As my rating reflects, I was overwhelmed by this novel. The only Ferrante novel I had read before was her "Days of Abandonment," which I thought overheated (and overrated). I retract any previous negative judgment: she is a major contemporary novelist and I will now go on immediately to her second Neapolitan novel, "The Story of a New Name." This is a coming of age novel, true, but it is also much more than that. The relationship between Lila and Lenu, the latter the narrator, has a bit of the M ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, italy, naples
Early in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, the narrator arrives at the eponymous farmhouse and has the following exchange with the Earnshaws' servant, Joseph:

‘What are ye for?’ he shouted. ‘T' maister's down i' t' fowld. Go round by th' end o' t' laith, if ye went to spake to him.’

‘Is there nobody inside to open the door?’ I hallooed, responsively.

‘There's nobbut t' missis; and shoo'll not oppen 't an ye mak' yer flaysome dins till neeght.’

Charming. Now imagine, for a moment, that the scene had
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-now
[προσοχή! το παρόν review δεν περιέχει τη λέξη νεορεαλιστικός]

Να λοιπόν που έφτασε η ώρα να συναντήσω κι εγώ τη Ferrante και όλα πήγαν πρίμα.

Θαρρώ πως, με εξαίρεση ίσως το Γκιάκ, το Η υπέροχη φίλη μου είναι το βιβλίο που έχει προκαλέσει το μεγαλύτερο θόρυβο στην Ελλάδα την τελευταία 3ετία και δεν έχει αφήσει καθόλου ασυγκίνητο και τον υπόλοιπο κόσμο. Η Ferrante είναι ένα φαινόμενο. Γιατί όμως ακριβώς; Βεβαίως, να σας εξηγήσω: Δεν έχω ιδέα.

Υπάρχουν 2 πράγματα που η Ferrante κάνει διαφορετικά από
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, italy, literature
Lila and Elena, childhood friends in a neighborhood of 1950s Naples, both wear the moniker “my brilliant friend,” but there is no question which of the two Ferrante meant. Elena continues her schooling through high school in this first installment of the trilogy of novels Ferrante has written about the two, while Lila, incandescent Lila, is held back from further schooling by her family claiming they cannot afford it. Instead, Lila takes books from a small neighborhood lending library to study o ...more
After finishing Elena Ferrante's first novel in the Neapolitan Trilogy, I am of two minds. On the one hand, being a writer myself, it is demotivating, due to its frank brilliance; on the other, for an enthusiastic reader, it is thought-provoking and deeply engaging. And to think, this is only a translation! Though I am undeniably envious of Ferrante's beautiful skill with words, I have to acknowledge that the growing hype around her is totally warranted, and in fact, I want to add to it:-)
The st
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
An almost seamless narrative with a large and voluble cast. Author Ferrante opens Vol. 1 of her tetralogy with a classic framing device (presumably not closed until the end of Vol. 4). It's the present day and Lila's son calls Elena, who's living in Turin, to say his mother is missing from her Naples home. This sets Elena to writing about the hardscrabble yet eventful upbringing she and Lila shared in post-World War II Naples.

The families are blue collar, desperately poor, for whom education is
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
First, allow me to disclaim my prejudice: I am not, generally speaking, a fan of the coming-of-age of novel. There are only so many times that a reader can be reasonably expected to suffer through the (often universal) discoveries that occasion childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. I wasn't a huge fan of weathering these experiences first hand ("Bullying, wet dreams, and death! Oh my!"), so I'm not exactly jonesing for a revisit.

I alluded to one of the major problems of the coming-of-age
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitivno spada u onu skupinu knjiga koje će vam se na prvu svidjeti ili vam se neće svidjeti. Prva knjiga prati djetinjstvo i ranu mladost Elene i Lile. Moram naglasiti da njihovo prijateljstvo nikad nije bilo ono klasično žensko prijateljstvo, koje je prikazano realističan i u neku ruku karazmatičan način, ali daleko od toga da je ovo priča samo o prijateljstvu, ovo je i prikaz Italije s druge polovice proteklog stoljeća kroz život životopisnih stanovnika jednog siromašnog kvarta na periferi ...more
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  • The Emperor of Paris
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  • Leaving Before the Rains Come
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  • The Patrick Melrose Novels
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist.

Ferrante is the author of a half dozen novels, including The Lost Daughter (originally published as La figlia oscura, 2006).

In 2012, Europa Editions began publication of English translations of Ferrante's "Neapolitan Novels", a series about two perceptive and intelligent girls from Naples who try to create lives for themselves within a violent and
More about Elena Ferrante

Other books in the series

L'amica geniale (4 books)
  • The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels, #2)
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (The Neapolitan Novels, #3)
  • The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Novels, #4)
“Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night.” 68 likes
“At that moment I knew what the plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost.” 56 likes
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