My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante

Lila and Elena grow up as best friends in a poor neighbourhood of Naples. They both do well at school, but Lila’s parents don’t want her to go to the conservatory. And so at 12, Lila has to help out in her father’s cobbler’s shop, while Elena learns Latin and Greek at school. The girls estrange a bit, especially when they start hanging out with boys.

This series by the unknown Italian author (we don’t even know if it’s a she or he) Elena Ferrante is fairly hyped and even made into a series. I was expecting a story about two girls and their bond with a fair amount of drama in it. But the latter turned out to be a wrong assumption on my part. This is more of a literary story that gently moves on and explores the relationship between the two girls in much detail. No big events or drama.

The story is set in Naples during the 1950s and the first book is about their childhood and adolescent years. This is the time when girls going to school is still seen as a waste of time. And life in Elena and Lila’s neighbourhood is hard.

We get to know the whole neighbourhood and that involves quite a lot of names and at times I didn’t remember who was who. It also didn’t seem that important either because one boy was rather interchangeable for another as far as I was concerned. Lila and Elena are total opposites. It’s Elena, the one who does get to go to school, who tells the story and has a kind of fascination with Lila’s personality. She is ‘her brilliant friend’. But maybe, it’s just the other way around…

The book didn’t touch me emotionally and the slow pace made me look forward to the end when things picked up a bit more pace. The book has an open ending, but I don’t think I’ll read the next part. The story didn’t hold on to me enough for that. Ferrante writes well and builds beautiful sentences, typically for an Italian author. But this genre is just not for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

4 thoughts on “My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante

  1. I tried to read this a few years ago but it wasn’t what I expected and I didn’t finish it. I often find I’m disappointed by books that have a lot of hype.

    Liked by 1 person

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