Margaret It's more satisfying if you've read the first book, and there is a great deal of reference to things that happened in "My Brilliant Friend." Not impossible to enjoy without reading the first, but why rob yourself of the pleasure?
Gemma Yes it should really be one book as I don't think that they are really separate books in themselves.
Marie Belcredi Definitely. You can't understand the characters and what has made them what they are in the second book without reading the first. All the characters have a huge baggage they lug with them into young adulthood from their formative years. This can only be done in the correct order.
Lois Now that book four is out, everyone is making it plain that one should read these books in the order written. The order written is also the "life order" of the two main characters - with My Brilliant Friend, book one, providing the childhood part of the story.
Ssongo To read the first book will answer a lot of questions for you. It is a complex kind of story with lots of details you should know to fully enjoy yourself in this wonderful story.
Claire Definitely. The second book starts exactly where the first left off and refers to many of the events of the My Brilliant Friend.
Amina Ouaziz The four books are one story that starts in the first book and ends in the 4th one. I have just read one and started the next and it is clear that the story goes on as it tackles the life of the authoress from childhood up to adulthood.
Catherine I am not sure why you would start with The Story of a New Name, but if it is because you have the opportunity, pick another book and wait. It is a quartet. You will miss the reason why this is so good. These are not sequels. It is 4 parts to a story, or at least that's what it was for me. Wonderful reads.
Tomáš Yes, Elena Ferrante explained in Frantumaglia, that the Brilliant Friend has been indended as one book — only after reconsidering its extent (just at the break of the book #1 and #2) she realized that it had to become a series. So you should read the whole quartet as one large volume (sic!).
Sallie Absolutely. I don't know how you would follow this without the background of My Brilliant Friend.
Dominique White I cannot imagine being able to understand this novel without having read the first one.