My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is the first in a series of four novels by a popular Italian author who writes using a pseudonym. That is a word I don’t hear often! No matter who wrote this story, I most certainly enjoyed it.
Told in the first-person, the tale takes place in 1950’s Naples. Two girls living in the same neighborhood, Elena and Lila, are classmates. At first, Elena dislikes Lila, but her personal desire to excel in school attracts her to Lila, who is exceptionally intelligent. With each passing year, the girls steadily grow apart with education and economics playing key roles.
This novel resounded deep within me for several reasons. I am Italian. This fact made the actions of many of the characters way too familiar for me. Lila’s father has his own business as did my father. I did not attend college right after high school even though many of my friends did. In the novel, Elena received more education than Lila who is forced to leave school earlier than she would have liked. These are only some of my relatable points.
I don’t believe you need to have had as many similar circumstances as I did in order to appreciate this novel. It’s about much more – the 50’s era, post WWII Italy, male domination, and life in close-knit communities. Although the story is told in the first-person, it was well-done and the many characters, well-defined. Ultimately, it is a story about the life choices we make and the consequences which follow. I highly recommend it.