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My Brilliant Friend: The Neapolitan Novels #1

A character driven novel of two young girls as they find their way though the tough Italian streets.


SUMMARY My Brilliant Friend begins in 2010, when the Lila Cerullo’s son telephones her best friend, Elena Greco that his mother has disappeared. Lila’s son is unable to find any trace of her. Elena is not surprised by the news, and recognizes it as something Lila had always talked about doing, disappearing without a trace.

Elena and Lila grew up in the 1950’s in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. The neighborhood was tough and the girls learned to rely on each other more than anyone else. In school, Elena is diligent and captures the attention of her teachers, while Lila is a prodigy and teaches herself to read before anyone else and earns the highest grades in the class. The path of the girls separate when Lila‘s parents refused to pay to continue her schooling after elementary school, while Elena‘s parents after much pressure from a teacher, consent to Elena attending middle school and then high school. While Elena is going to school, Lila is forced to work at her father shoe shop.

Lila grows up to be a beautiful young lady, attracting many of the neighborhoods young men. Her family pressures her to marry someone rich. They have there sights set on Marcello Solara, who courts Lila and lavishes her family with expensive gifts. But Lila does not care for Marcello and I order to get away fromMarcello she encourages the son of the local grocer, Stephano to ask her to marry him. The book concludes with the marriage of Lila and Stefano.

“I feel no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence. Every sort of thing happened, at home and outside, every day, but I don’t recall having ever thought that the life we had there was particularly bad. Life was like that, that’s all, we grew up with a duty to make it difficult for others before they made it difficult for us.”

REVIEW The central theme in My Brilliant Friend is the supportive yet competitive friendship between Lila and Elena between the ages of five and sixteen. Highlighted throughout the book are the factors that shape the lives of these two girls: their neighborhood, family dynamics, experiences and education. Lila and Elena’s character development is the strength of the story, but the huge cast of characters, makes reading a little confusing at times. Elena Ferrante’s writing is good, but the story of the two girls lacks enough substance to hold my interest. The story ended with Lila’s wedding, but we have no idea what happened to the older Lila whose son reported her missing on the first pages of the book. Perhaps that was merely a teaser to force us to read the other two books in the Neapolitan series. I listened to the audible version of My Brilliant Friend, the narrator Hillary Huber did a nice job. Book Published September 25, 2012.

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