Rick Riordan's Reviews > My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
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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 fantasy fiction. This is contemporary realistic fiction about two women who grow up together in the 1950s and 1960s in a poor neighborhood in Naples. The cast of characters is large, and for me, an American reader, I was missing some cultural context that made it a little bewildering at first. I read the book in English (because my Italian is not that good yet) and the style was both deeply intimate and jarringly matter-of-fact. The narrator Elena tells us everything about her upbringing in a neighborhood where harsh poverty is the norm and family violence is unremarkable, even, for instance, when a father sends a daughter flying out a second story window. Elena grows up side by side with her friend/foil/personal albatross Lila, who is naturally brilliant at everything and more beautiful than Elena, but who is held down by circumstances to work in her father's shoe store while Elena has a chance to escape her life through education. The book is a blow-by-blow confessional, following the two girls from their earliest memories through their early adulthood. The short chapters keep the pages turning, and by the end of the novel I found myself very involved in the lives of the characters. It is epic in the best sense of the word, and yet quiet and personal in its scope. At the end, there is a cliffhanger so brutal I immediately had to go and buy the next volume of this series. Wow, cliffhangers work! I should try them some time . . .
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 28, 2015 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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message 1: by Emilee (new)

Emilee That ending statement was quite cruel!!!

message 2: by Ace (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ace You have spare time?

Jennifer Dines This book is my absolute favorite, along with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I think this will become a classic.

AüstinJaxR *gamz4lifz* jeez i thought you were busy making the thor of hammer for magnus chase
NOW I OVER HEARD percy jackson reterning in Apollo©?

Julier Very thoughtful, articulate review/comments. Thank you for sharing! It is the best one I have read!

message 6: by Talulah (new)

Talulah *hint hint* Italy

message 7: by Vladimir (new)

Vladimir Wolfsbane hint* hint* Nico Di Angelo

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

what do you mean nico di angelo, like in the lightning theif?

message 9: by Charlie (new)

Charlie my mom read that she though it was good

message 10: by Charlie (new)

Charlie I'm learning Italian to

Dolshayea Bennett did you like writing percy Jackson

message 12: by Irene (new)

Irene Thielen Elena Ferrante has certainly used a great marketing technique in the cliffhanger. There is a one at the end of each book making it impossible ( for me anyway) of not immediately going on to the next and the next and the next. I think the story improves the more you read, probably as you get more familiar with the characters and the complex interrelations.

message 13: by nick niacin (new)

nick niacin i agree!

Jenny I absoluttene loved this book! Yeah you should totally Try cliffhangers sometime. Oh wait, you already did in like, every other book you have ever written! They're as cruel as they are brilliant. And they are pretty brilliant.

message 15: by Patrycja (new)

Patrycja Have you read it in Italian? If so, what's your level more or less? I'm, say, almost upper-intermediate and I'd like to give it a go :)

message 16: by Philautia (new)

Philautia Your cliffhangers work, Uncle Rick. *ugly sobs*

message 17: by L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

L. Lawson I, too, stick mainly to fantasy literature, but I am part of a book club, and this was our selection. I'm so glad I read it...such a direct, powerful story.

Maria It is wonderful and genuinely describes the life of girls growing up in the sixties, not only in a Naples neighbourhood but also in any other place in Europe if those times . I loved it

George Rife Since you liked this novel so much, you probably should try reading more books of this type- you don't have to give up the fantasy fiction to diversify your reading.

Andrei Mungiu The book was a mistery to me almost till the end. I found difficult to understand the hidden meaning of the traits of the characters. I appreciate the narration and style but I found the characters much too linear, with one major characteristic which doesn't evolve. There is also a sudden break between childhood and puberty which I find superficially treated; a constant lack of depth which dissatisfied me all through the novel.

message 21: by blou (new) - added it

blou i regret not buying it today after reading this review :/

message 22: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth Jaworski I just started this wonderful book that was recommended to me a few years ago by my MIL and now recently by my BFF. Love it so far. My son, who says you are his favorite author, will be impressed that I am reading something you also enjoyed.

message 23: by Cambrinus (new) - added it

Cambrinus The book is written in a series of different registers, including the Neapolitan dialect - tricky, even if you speak Italian!

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