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My Brilliant Friend Paperback – 11 Oct 2012

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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: 13.6 x 2.5 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

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

Four Europa Editions titles have been longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. --IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

'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

'Ferrante brings tremendous vibrancy, passion and depth to Elena and Lila s characters... This wonderful novel, admirably translated by Ann Goldstein, has the feel of a classic. It is broad, almost cinematic in scope with a vast cast of characters... I can t recommend My Brilliant Friend highly enough. It s an excellent novel utterly engrossing and absorbing.' - --JacquiWine's Journal

'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

'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

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gilgamesh on 12 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My Brilliant Friend is one of the most compelling novels I've ever read, and in Lina you'll find one of the strongest, most original and memorable female characters you've ever encountered in fiction. This is a book about friendship between two girls - but about so much more at the same time - as it vividly evokes one neighbourhood in Naples in the 1950s. Eye-opening. Highly recommended. The second book after this one The Story of a New Name is nearly as good too. Buy My Brilliant Friend. Read it. Recommend it.
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7 of 8 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?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SDY on 6 Oct 2013
Format: Paperback
Elena Ferrante has a way to get to the uncomfortable core of relationships. She did it before, and she's done it again. In this book though, unlike with her previous novels, she allows herself more space to breathe, and she builds her characters up from childhood. It's a really enthralling read. My favourite book remains The Days of Abandonment, but this is a close second and I look forward to the next volume of this story.
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Format: Paperback
I began this book feeling quite ambivalent about it. But as I got deeper I started to catch the fire.
It is important to know it is contextual, I believe. Elena quotes being born in the 40′s and the post war world of Italy was pretty grim at that time as the discussion of politics shows. The women’s problems were illustrated so very well and the sheer hopelessness of their situation grabbed me as one I have heard from that era which had not changed in a long time. But this was a post war period of much change and it slowly trickled down for these women…
These were two very intelligent women but where could they go ? And this to me is the crux of the story, a piece of a bigger post war women’s story. I saw Lila as very narcissistic, or even sociopathic in her ways of making everyone pay for her position and not able to move out of it. Like all narcissists, Lila manages to cultivate admirers along the way, and Elena was the most susceptible in her mild ways as the next books showed for me.
How they react to their situation, the opportunities available and closed in their time registered very strongly knowing the difficulties for women in those times, universally. That Elena chose the path of education and Lila the path of manipulation is a remarkable story of the 50s, 60s and beyond when women were struggling for power of any kind.
Having read all three now I am totally in love with Ferrante’s story and I note the third left the door open so I see that there will be another in 2015 taking up the women’s stories beyond their 30s.
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