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My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1)
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October 2020: Other Books > My Brilliant Friend- 3 stars

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Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 566 comments My Brilliant Friend is the first book I’ve read by Elena Ferrrante. It’s part one of a four-part series, telling of a friendship between two Italian girls in a small impoverished village near Naples in the 1950s. The book opens with Lenu learning, as an older adult, that her friend Lila has disappeared again and the implication is that Lila is mentally disturbed. Then we pivot back to their childhood where the story begins, and move through teenaged years, during which Lina astounds many by entering high school (rare for any village child, let alone a girl) and Lila quits school after primary and works in her father’s shoe shop. Their friendship, somewhat improbably, continues, although it is fraught with a complex competitiveness. There are multiple families and secondary characters, who have nicknames; I had to refer often to an index of characters in the front and was grateful to have it.

The author is Italian and wrote in Italian (this is a translation). My sense is that she doesn’t care much for the violent macho culture of the Neapolitans at the time — I certainly didn’t, based on her descriptions! In fact I was so put off that I’m unlikely to read the next book, even though this one leaves the reader hanging, with no idea what happens to the girls after about age nineteen. I felt cheated and believe this book doesn’t stand well alone. On the other hand I’m unwilling to wade through any more of the cultural setting to find out what happens. I see that it’s spawned a TV series and it may work much better in that form, with all the drama and conflict among the characters. I’m rounding up to a 3.


message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8004 comments Oh, I have this on list of reads for this year-yikes does not sound like I would like much above three stars either .. I will leave it there, and see what happens, but I am not in hurry to get to before the year ends.


Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 566 comments Joanne wrote: "Oh, I have this on list of reads for this year-yikes does not sound like I would like much above three stars either .. I will leave it there, and see what happens, but I am not in hurry to get to b..."

After I posted I read other reviews. Lots of complaints similar to mine. Then again, lots of people loved it...


Hilde (hilded) | 424 comments I read the quartet last year, and it ended up being among my favourite reads of the year. I really enjoyed them, but you are right the first one doesn’t stand well on a stand-alone basis. It really is a long book, just divided in four parts. The HBO series is beautiful, well worth watching.


Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 566 comments Hilde wrote: "I read the quartet last year, and it ended up being among my favourite reads of the year. I really enjoyed them, but you are right the first one doesn’t stand well on a stand-alone basis. It really..."

Thank you. Nice to hear a different perspective.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5692 comments Hilde wrote: "I read the quartet last year, and it ended up being among my favourite reads of the year. I really enjoyed them, but you are right the first one doesn’t stand well on a stand-alone basis. It really..."

Thanks for those notes. I might watch the beginning of the series before deciding whether to read the books.


Hilde (hilded) | 424 comments Hope you’ll enjoy it if you get to it, Nancy :)


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