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My Brilliant Friend Paperback – 11 Oct 2012

118 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; Original edition (11 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609450787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609450786
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.5 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"There is a savage honesty to the work of Elena Ferrante that is both unsettling and comforting at once. Here is an author who has poured every ounce of herself onto the page." - The Irish Times

""I can really think of no better praise than to simply say I loved it, though that seems inadequate commendation for such a supremely talented author." - Book Reporter

"I wish I'd published Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. I've been recommending these to everyone I know since I read the first book, My Brilliant Friend, at the beginning of 2014. When the third book came out in September I had to put aside all submissions for a few days to continue the saga. These feminist novels are the best modern portrait of a female friendship I've come across in literature. I'm impatient for the fourth and final book which is out in autumn 2015." - Adam Freudenheim from Pushkin Press writing in The Guardian

"Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader." - The New Yorker

"Ferrante, beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein…writes with a ferocious, intimate urgency." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Cinematic in the density of its detail." --Times Literary Supplement

"Ferrante's remarkable achievement so far is to combine the "large, loose, baggy monster" mode of novel and feminist polemic, without killing the appeal of the first or the force of the second... The Neapolitan series so far is a masterclass in how to take off a mask and be oneself behind a barrier of one's own making." - New Humanist

"1950s Naples is vividly and evocatively portrayed....[the novel is] sharp and honest and pulsating with life...I really recommend this book, and I'm thrilled to read that this is part one of a trilogy."Tolstoy is my cat

"An enthralling reading experience, reminiscent of those childhood immersions in a story that turn the volume of the real world down to a whisper. It impressed and delighted me and it was powerful enough to make me revoke my decision not to do any more book reviewing on this blog because I simply had to let you know about it... Ferrante shows us the levers working the vice that warps and crushes the human soul." - A Year of Reading the World

"Our bestselling title this Christmas. A modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila." - London Review Bookshop

"If you haven t read Elena Ferrante, it's like not having read Flaubert in 1856...Incontrovertibly brilliant." - Anne Meadows, Granta

"...these delicious novels are some of the best I have ever read. A vivid portrait of female friendship sweeps from childhood in the back streets of impoverished Naples during the 1950s through the Twentieth Century and their love affairs, marriages, motherhood. Passionate, intense, full of suspense and cinematic detail, these astonishing novels will keep you gripped throughout the summer." -- Kate Figes, The Daily Mail

'Our bestselling title this Christmas. A modern masterpiece from one of Italy s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila.' - A London Review Bookshop Book of the Day

"If you haven t read Elena Ferrante, it's like not having read Flaubert in 1856...Incontrovertibly brilliant." - Anne Meadows, editor at Granta

"The four novels (the first is _My Brilliant Friend_; the last is out here in September) have become the publishing story of the decade...Ferrante is that rare gem, a novelist with impeccable literary credentials who also spins a good yarn - and who sells." - The Sunday Times Culture (Cover Story)

"I simply have not read anything like this before. It sounds so simple and restricted in nature but Ferrante, like her two protagonists, breaks every barrier with her impassioned, complex and honest narrative...I cannot recommend this book enough." - Franny and Perks

"This novel has so much going for it. The prose is very straightfoward and easy to read. The characters are incredibly rich: forever surprising you, full of mystery and contradictions." --Never Stop Reading

About the Author

Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of The Days of Abandonment, which the NewYork Times called "stunning", Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter and the critically acclaimed Neopolitan Novels, which include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child, published in September 2015. Though one of Italy's most important contemporary authors, she has successfully shunned public attention and kept her true identity concealed.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By chickpea on 28 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My Brilliant Friend is about the close friendship, rivalry and mutual influence of two young girls living in a poor district of Naples. Elena, our narrator, is hard-working and clever, and wants to fit in. Lina is fierce and driven. She is perhaps even cleverer and more attractive than Elena, but her tendency to fight for everything means that her path is less smooth.

This was a wonderful book and probably the best that I have read this year. Both the portrayal of the girls' friendship, and of the community they come from, are complex, detailed, realistic and illuminating.

The community first - it's a poor district of Naples, and at the start of the story when the girls are six, it's just beginning to recover from the war years. Everyone knows what everyone else did during those years, not least because some people are still living off the ill-gotten money from their underhand behaviour. The historical rivalries and resentments play out in even the lives and friendships of the children too young to know the background, but become even more complex with Italy's post-war economic and political changes. The intense machismo of the neighbourhood also plays a huge part in the dynamics (Lina, typically, tries to ignore it). But all of this is told simply, mainly through the way that it affects the relationships of this group of friends.

Lina herself is a compelling character, and we see her grow from a child, urgently wanting to conquer knowledge of all kinds, to an apparently serene and assured young woman, whose force of will means she will still not be bound by external limitations.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mary Josefina Cade on 20 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
'My Brilliant Friend' moves at a headlong place, the words racing across the page as if Elena Ferrante is writing on the run. She tells the story with power and passion, describing the impossible difficulties that confront Elena and Lila, children living in an impoverished area of Naples after the Second World war. Time and place are vividly evoked but the story has a universal meaning. Anyone who has childhood experience of living in an enclosed environment under the control of adults with repressed emotions and fixed ideas, will be able to relate to Lila and Elena's life in the neighbourhood. In my own case, for example, this was a convent boarding school. Elena's experiences of disassociation, of losing the margins, are a true reflection of the results of this kind of damaging upbringing.

Elena and Lila struggle to grow up amidst the feuds and changing friendships that consume both the children and the adults. Elena Ferrante expertly describes the vulnerability of childhood, the fears and nightmares, the difficulties of coping in a deep dark world full of envy and violence, where the most charming person turns out to be.... well I won't reveal the answer to this. Elena and Lila's lives acquire further complications as they grow into teenagers. The boys of their childhood turn into jealous young men, unstable guardians and protectors who further limit the freedom of the girls.

I believed in it all, so much so that I was startled by the sudden ending. I have only one question. Where are the next two books? (update, reading them now!)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dotty on 22 April 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The beginning was innovative and quickly held my attention. However, probably because this is one of a series of books, the remainder didn't quite hold up to the beginning. The view of life for children in a Neapolitan suburb was well drawn and the cast of characters though large, believable and not stereotypical. The young age of the parents (revealed at the wedding) came as a shock! They seemed so much older in the text, no doubt worn down by poverty and anger. The author has succeeded in making me want to read what happens next...!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Euphemia Black on 10 Aug. 2015
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I read the first half with interest, but then it became tedious and repetitive, so I skim-read it to the end.
Although it t does give an insight into the violence of family life in Naples of the time, (1950s) the friendship at the centre of the novel is not particularly interesting. It is narrated by Elena who appears as a bystander to Lila's life and doesn't seem to understand or even like her very much. The friendship drifted in and out for no particular reason that I could see. The way the author marked every change in attitude (of the girls), with a change in appearance was very irritating. You can do this once but not every time. I really don't want to plough through 2 more of these books, but I am interested to see what happens to the girls. who are only 16 at the end of the first book, so spoilers would be welcome!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hiker on 7 April 2015
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After reading all the hype around this book l was rather disappointed. It is a good story and well written, but to me it does not translate well. You would know it to be a translation immediately you started reading the slightly stilted phrasing. Some may enjoy this aspect, but l'm afraid it rather spoilt it for me. I won't be going on to read the rest of the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lulu on 19 July 2015
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I really wanted to love this book. I'm also from Italian heritage and understand the Italian way of life but I just couldn't get into it. I think every young girl can relate to those feelings of insecurity growing up, competing to be the prettiest and most popular. It's certainly a very honest book but there was something I couldn't connect with whilst reading it, perhaps it was the way it was translated. Saying that I really would like to know how the story continues and what became of the two girls.
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